Summer in Los Angeles: sure, you can dismiss it as a "dry heat," but it's still plenty hot. That's where the refreshing ceviches from the multitude of Latin American cultures who call this city home step in, offering relief in the form of raw fish tossed with an acidic marinade. A good ceviche, however, is not always easy to find. Any compromise on the quality of the three core ingredients— seafood, acid, and salt— is glaringly noticeable. Luckily for you, we took a couple of mealy, over-acidified fish bombs to the gut, and narrowed it down to six ceviches around town that are all but guaranteed to keep you cool. ¡Provecho!
Corazón y Miel
Corazón y Miel is one of the hottest Pan-Latin restaurant in Los Angeles at the moment. Chef Eduardo Ruiz and his team have garnered quite a following since his opening in the City of Bell, a Southeast LA community previously devoid of this kind of restaurant. And perhaps it's time we forget the little fact that he racked up his accolades working under Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo at Animal and focus entirely on his ceviche. Try the Ceviche de Corazón ($11), a supple shrimp and sliced octopus rendition inspired by Ruiz's days working in Baja. Just as some people crave Tapatio hot sauce on their ceviches, Ruiz craves soy sauce, peanuts, and ginger, piling them high and serving the whole thing with housemade tortilla chips. We suggest pairing it with one of several mezcal cocktails.
As you make your rounds eating ceviche in this town, you'll notice that Mexican ceviches make up the majority of the offerings—usually some kind of mishmash including fish, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and cilantro. In Mexico, where most of the produce is organic and the seafood is not whatever is cheapest at Restaurant Depot, that would suffice beautifully. But in LA, where previously frozen fishes like farmed tilapia and shrimp reign supreme, places like El Coraloense—who pride themselves in the freshness of their affordable ceviche, made from never-frozen halibut and meaty abalone—deserve a round of applause. It's a family operation started by Sinaloa-born Maria Curie and her Nayarit-born husband Leo Curie (pretty much the two ceviche capitals of Mexico). Opt for the Ceviche Sampler ($10.99) pictured above, which includes ceviches with marinated shredded carrot, fruit, and housemade aiolis. To wash it down, try a tall cup filled with their naturally dairy-free coconut milk horchata.
El Coraloense: 6600 Florence Ave, Bell Gardens, CA 90201 (map); 562-776-8800
El Huarique is the newest Peruvian ceviche player in town as of January, serving eight different "cebiches." The star here is the Cebiche Passion Fruit ($16.99), made with sashimi-thick slices of Pacific halibut, lime juice, the intensely fruity heat of fresh Limo and Rocoto aji peppers, and tart passionfruit pulp. It's topped with a sprinkling of scarlet quinoa seeds and served with Peruvian puffed corn and a couple of cubes of creamy yams. Huarique's unique location sets it apart—it's situated in a tiny hallway of a food court along the Venice boardwalk. If you're on a budget, get your ceviche with farmed "Basa/Swai" fish for $4 less. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 3-5 p.m., they offer ceviche happy hour with reduced prices, too.
El Huarique: 1301 Ocean Front Walk #10, Venice, CA 90291 (map); 310-452-1254
Chef Sergio Penuelas, who hails from Los Mochis, Sinaloa, has carved himself an intriguing niche in the Angeleno Mexican seafood world with a seasoned approach that rises above trendy foods and cheffy gimmicks. Penuelas first received citywide recognition for his smokey grilled whole snook fish at Mariscos Chente's in Mar Vista. Now he's working more seafood magic at Coni'Seafood in Inglewood, just minutes away from LAX. We're fans of his simple, fresh ceviche inventions, like this one: extra-lightly marinated raw shrimp and tender sea snails, mixed with crispy jicama that his sister-in-law imports from Sinaloa, sitting pretty atop a bed of smoked marlin pate on a tostada ($12). No fancy ingredients or tricks—just fresh seafood, as it should be.
Coni'Seafood: 3544 W Imperial Hwy Inglewood, CA 90303 (map); 310-672-2339
Blood clams, aka "Pata de Mula" clams, are a staple in many coastal Central and South American countries. La Cevicheria, in the outskirts of Koreatown, specializes in Guatemalan-slanted ceviches of this chewy, chocolate-colored mollusk. The Guatemalan influence comes in the generous use of fresh mint leaf, which compliments the briny clam meat superbly. Start off with the Bloody Clam Ceviche Mixed with Shrimp and Octopus ($17), and eventually move on to a version featuring only the plump, muddy clams. An honorable mention goes out to their tostada, a uniformally flat fried tortilla made with coarse-grained masa, providing a rustic crunch. They're sourced from a tortilleria in East LA that makes them multiple times a day.
La Cevicheria: 3809 W Pico Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90019 (map); 323-732-1253
In the world of ceviches, some attention must be paid to aguachiles, the blazingly spicy cousin of standard ceviches. We found an interesting and seemingly undiscovered aguachile/ceviche hybrid in an unassuming Mexican seafood shop in Boyle Heights called El Sarape. It doesn't look like much, but wander to the back patio, and in a moment a bowl filled with a complimentary fish ceviche amuse-bouche will magically appear. The owner is Maria Benitez from Tecuala, Nayarit, where it's common to add marinated shredded carrots to ceviches. We recommend her plate of Ceviche Mixto ($8), which comes with tender octopus, raw and cooked whole shrimp, and ripe avocado. If you find yourself gasping for air, it's because Benitez grinds in tiny, teardrop-shaped Mexican chiles that she grows herself. Go ahead and order a second glass of ice-cold agua fresca, or better yet, walk a block to the liquor store and pick up a six-pack of Pacificosto bring over. She's cool with it.
El Sarape: 2522 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033 (map); 323-415-0765
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