Over the past decade, arguably no dish of foreign origin has grown more in popularity or prevalence in American restaurants than ceviche. Enjoyed throughout Latin America, this concoction of seafood “cooked” in lime juice (the acid breaks down the proteins in the fish in much the same way that heat does) is most closely associated with Peru. It has traced an arc in this country similar to that of sushi in the ‘70s and ‘80s: first embraced by foodies looking for something exotic, it overcame Americans’ squeamishness about uncooked seafood to become a crowd pleaser that crosses all culinary borders.
The ceviche at Los Andes remains the gold standard of the dish in Providence. Their Ceviche Clasico, available in both appetizer and entrée versions, is so named for a reason: the medley of tilapia, squid, clams and mussels tossed with garlic and lime juice, and garnished with red onion and corn is pretty much the platonic ideal of ceviche. 903 Chalkstone Ave. 649-4911.
Like any dish based on a simple but effective formulation (seafood + citrus = delicious), ceviche is easy to adapt into myriad combinations – and that’s exactly what local restaurants are doing. Lim’s and Nami demonstrate how easily the formula can be applied to Asian flavors. Lim’s does a salmon version (which itself was introduced into Japanese cuisine by the Norwegians when they started using it in sushi) with avocado, mango, tomato, onion and peppers, while Nami does an Octopus Ceviche with cherry tomatoes, cilantro, mango, apple and wasabi yuzu sauce. Lim’s: 18 South Angell St. 383-8830. Nami: 198 Atwells Ave. 383-6559.
The Rooftop at the Providence G incorporates some Caribbean influence with its Red Snapper Ceviche, served with plantains, green curry oil, mango and wood roasted green onion. (Sadly, by the time you read this you may have to wait until next season to try it.) Maybe the best example of ceviche’s constant evolution, however, is Red Fin Crudo + Kitchen, which simply follows the muses (and what’s available) with its Ceviche of the Day. When a dish is this easily adaptable and hinges on the freshness of the main ingredient, why do it the same way all the time? Rooftop at the Providence G: 100 Dorrance St. 632-4904. Red Fin Crudo + Kitchen: 71 Washington St. 454-1335.