Who Will Be Ceviche King of NYC?

ArticleChris Yong-GarciaComment

For these five top chefs, making ceviche is an intensely serious, deeply personal affair, rooted in childhood memories of sea, sun and family. When they prepare a ceviche for their customers, they are making those memories fresh again. And we can feel the love. Here we give you everything you need—wherever you may be—to sample for yourself the warmth of the sun, the sea, a family’s embrace. We invite you to decide for yourself, who from among New York City’s top ceviche masters should be crowned king.

Julian Medina @ Toloache

Where are you from? What’s your first ceviche memory? When did you first fall in love with it?

Mexico City. I used to go to the beach five times a year. I love the water. I remember when I was eight loving fresh shucked oysters in Acapulco. For me, ceviche brings me back to my childhood, having lunch at Barra Vieja in Acapulco, with my toes in the sand, looking at the water. Every December my parents used to take us there. Shrimp ceviche with saladitas. It was the best lunch ever!

Who or what inspires your ceviche making these days?

I love Peruvian ceviche. I’m inspired by Gaston Acurio and by the cevicherias in Queens that all Peruvians go to. I always look for the hole in the wall place, the hidden spot, and go get my belly full of maiz cancha, ceviche picante and sweet potato.

What’s the best ceviche spot on the planet?

Sira la Morena on the beach in Acapulco.

What ceviche are you going to share with us?

My favorite and the favorite of my customers: tuna ceviche with watermelon. I made it when Toloache first opened, and I still think it’s a great combination of flavors!

Julian's Recipe for Tuna Ceviche

Alex Ureña @ Rayuela

Where are you from? What’s your first ceviche memory? When did you first fall in love with it?

I was born in the northern part of the Dominican Republic, in a city called Santiago, close to Puerto Plata, bathed in crystal clear Caribbean waters. I spent every weekend at the beach. The whole family would go to enjoy the water, sun, food and drinks. I remember watching the fishermen bring in the conch, and then prepare it right there at the dock. They used to remove the flesh, add fresh lime juice, salt, olive oil and pineapple. It was fantastic! I fell in love with ceviche the first time I had it. I had to be about eight years old. Conch ceviche was the most common, so that had to be my first.

What goes best with ceviche?

In terms of what is best to prepare it with, I like to add fruits, mostly tropical. The sweetness makes a perfect balance to the acidity. In terms of pairing it, I think ceviche should be eaten alone as a starter. There’s no better way to start a meal. When I was a kid, we used to have arroz con grandules right after we were done with the ceviche.

What ceviche are you going to share with us?

One of my favorites: red snapper with carrot ginger and orange . We serve it as a special. When it comes to ceviche, you want to bring out the best flavor in the simplest possible way. I try to keep it simple: less is more.

Alex's Recipe for Red Snapper Ceviche

Miguel Aguilar @ Surfish

Where are you from? What’s your first ceviche memory? When did you first fall in love with it?

I’m Peruvian, from Lima. La Punta is my neighborhood, a beautiful place surrounded by the ocean. It’s full of fishermen. So the ocean was very important in my life, since I was a little kid. I learned to love it and respect it, when fishing or surfing. The ocean was giving me joy, when I was catching waves, and it was giving me happiness, when I was taking the catch of the day and preparing a nice meal at home. I used fish a lot, cooking together with my father. He was the one who taught me how to make ceviche. I remember making it with him and the fishermen right at the boat. The fish was so fresh! We used to squeeze the limes, add aji limo, garlic, salt and pepper and make a quick tiradito. Or I remember going to the fish market in El Callao with him. We would buy kilos of sea urchin; use a little garlic, lime juice, chopped onions, avocado and olive oil. That is the best ceviche you can imagine! Next to nice bottle of red wine, we spent hours like that on Sunday.

Have you ever had a bad experience with ceviche?

It was a long time ago in high school. My teacher was making ceviche for us, and she did not have enough lime juice for the fish. It tasted horrible! We had to eat it anyway. Thinking about it makes me laugh.

Are there any ceviche taboos for you?

When I was on the Food Network, in my first round on the show Chopped, they gave me big clams, nopales, Chinese persimmons and Italian bitters. Kind of hard to cook with those ingredients, so I went for ceviche! I made a clam ceviche—kind of ceviche de conchas—and they loved it! A very successful dish that proved there are no rules for ceviche.

What ceviche are you going to share with us?

Salmon Anticuchos, it’s one of my favorites! Raw salmon, diced, skewered, seared, glazed with soy sauce, then bathed in a fusion sauce I make with “leche de tigre,” huacatay, capers and aji Amarillo aioli. The Anticuchos have to be rare. Red onions, and listo! Enjoy!

Miguel's Recipe for Salmon Anticuchos

Eric Ramirez @ Raymi

Where are you from? What’s your first ceviche memory? When did you first fall in love with it?

I’m from a place called Clifton, born and raised in New Jersey, two hours west of the Atlantic Ocean. My family and I used to go to the beach every weekend in the summer. My first memory of ceviche was my mother preparing it. But I actually fell in love only two or three years ago. I was on an R&D trip to Peru and was eating amazing ceviches that really changed my perspective.

What’s it like making ceviche in New York? How do you work with the ingredients?

The limes are very different from the ones in Peru. With the limes here, you have to find the proper balance. Also, the ajis we get here are not fresh. They come frozen, so that also plays a major part in making leche de tigre. You need to learn how to adapt and make the best that you can with the ingredients available.

What ceviche are you going to share with us?

The classic ceviche. For me it really represents Peruvian ceviches. If you can make that one, you can make them all. It has a certain sophistication. It’s pure and straight- forward. And it’s also hard to get right, because it has only a few ingredients.

Try Eric's Recipe for Classic Ceviche

Dominic Martinez @ Desnuda

Where are you from? What’s your first ceviche memory? When did you first fall in love with it?

I’m from Riverside, southern California. It’s about an hour from LA. As a kid growing up, in the summer time we would go to the beach a lot. I remember once my uncle coming home hung over, and he said, ‘Here. I’m going to show you how to make ceviche, best thing for a hangover.’ It was a very simple shrimp ceviche. Also, my mother took me to Baja California a few times. We had ceviche on the beach, and that’s when I knew I loved it.

Where did you learn most about ceviche?

From my family. My aunts and uncles were always making ceviche in the summer. I used to be Chef de Cuisine at Bond St. Working there for eight years, I learned a lot about fish and also different techniques for curing it.

What ceviche are you going to share with us?

It’s my shrimp ceviche, a take on the ceviche my uncle made when I was a child. The ceviche has equal parts lime juice and orange juice, toasted cumin, jalapeno, red bell pepper, red onion, avocado, cucumber, shrimp, cilantro and salt. It’s very simple, very delicious.

Dominic's Recipe for Shrimp Ceviche

What should we have with it?

The beach, a nice cold beer, maybe a pisco sour and good company!