Milagro’s ceviche de pulpo (Image: Renée Suen)
Sushi, the star of a previous edition of our
series, is far from the only raw fish game in town. Ceviche, the Latin American standby that relies on acid from citrus fruits to cure fresh fish, bivalves or cephalopods, is also well represented. While some Toronto chefs stick to tried-and-true preparations for “cooking” their catch, others transform the already magical dish—believed to have originated in Peru—with surprising inventions. Either way, we recommend enjoying with a cold beer. Here, 10 of the city’s most delicious and alluring ceviche dishes. Food Porn
Although inspired by the cantinas of their native Mexico City, brothers Arturo and Andrés Anhalt have created a ceviche dish with some decidedly non-traditional twists, like the tender octopus that’s been braised for an hour and a half. Forgoing the standard red-white-green theme of most Mexican ceviches, lime juice–marinated tentacles are tangled up with red onion, tomatillo, cilantro and smoky chipotles in adobo paste, all doused with a hearty dose of Spanish olive oil. The flavourful mix is piled high over shredded lettuce—an edible strainer—and served in typical cantina style with a package of saltines and a lime wedge. It’s even better when chased with a bottle of Negra Modelo and fresh lime juice. $11.95/medium, pictured; $16.25/large.
Milagro, 5 Mercer St., 416-850-2855, milagrorestaurant.com.
Chris McDonald’s buttery smoked kingfish ceviche uses diced tomatoes and bright kumquat zest to cut through firm and slightly salty kingfish that’s been bathed in a light citrus marinade. Fruity extra-virgin olive oil helps bind the components together while fresh house-fried tortilla chips and a delightful frisée salad lighten the palate. $13.50. .
Cava, 1560 Yonge St., 416-979-9918, cavarestaurant.ca
Chef Luis Valenzuela salt-cures meaty Georgian Bay bass, then cooks the diced flesh in lime juice and olive oil. The milky-white nuggets end up with a scallop-like texture and stand out against the red onions, cilantro, sweet corn kernels and crunchy cancha (inflated corn nuts). Served with paper-thin sweet potato chips, this Peruvian- and Ecuadorian-inspired dish uses sustainable ingredients sourced from suppliers that treat their workers fairly. $10.
Torito, 276 Augusta Ave., 416-961-7373, toritorestaurant.com.
Some might balk at the thought of Asian–Latin American fusion, but David Lee’s pretty floral ceviche, arriving on a bed of crushed ice, actually works. Corn nuts provide a salty crunch against silky strips of lime-marinated hamachi (yellowtail) and almost grassy chunks of still-firm avocado. The sweet, buttery fish is seasoned with cilantro and finely minced jalapeños, the latter’s heat quelled by a golden pool of olive oil and coconut milk. $16.
Nota Bene, 180 Queen St. W., 416-977-6400, notabenerestaurant.com.
This Peruvian outpost serves two types of lemon-marinated ceviches, both based on a time-honoured recipe. The first and more popular version features dense filets of basa (Asian catfish) that have been briefly cooked in lemon, salt and garlic before being tossed with finely sliced celery, red and white onion slivers and chopped parsley. Keeping with tradition, the mountain of fish comes with chunks of cooked corn cobs and thick slices of sweet and regular potato. Spice fiends can ask the kitchen to pre-season their ceviche with their fiery chili-garlic dip, but take heed: it’s tongue-searingly hot. $14.95.
El Fogon, 543 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-850-8041, elfogon.ca.
The mixed seafood ceviche at this mid-town restaurant named after Frida Kahlo is a smoky, mouth-watering affair. Chef Jose Hadad separately prepares meaty shrimp, velvety sheets of sliced sea scallops and creamy poached mussels in a vibrant lime juice marinade laced with chili oil. Finely minced tomato, red onion and bell pepper are a visual nod to Mexico’s national colours: red, white and green. Thin curls of homemade potato chips are an inventive alternative to the usual crackers. $16.
Frida, 999 Eglinton Ave. W., 416-787-2221, fridarestaurant.ca.
Claudio Aprile uses modern culinary techniques to construct this off-menu hors d’oeuvre, which uses the same sweet-spicy Thai flavours as his seared scallop course. Beads of finger lime pulp deliver a caviar-like pop and crunch, while the yuzu-ponzu vinaigrette echoes the mild citrus zing of the bivalve’s grapefruit juice marinade. But the liquid nitrogen frozen crème fraiche pearls steal the show, creating a luxurious sauce as they gradually melt into the tiny pool of coconut milk that lines the scallop shell. A deseeded chili ring, cornflower blossom and Thai basil brighten the canvas with pings of colour.
Colborne Lane, 45 Colborne St. (at Leader Ln.), 416-368-9009, colbornelane.com.
Tom Thai sticks with the cool-and-spicy formula, seasoning his lightly seared B.C. scallops with peppery grilled jalapeño and shimeji chili powder. A slightly bitter dollop of kumquat jam crowns each fleshy, olive oil–slicked medallion, and the whole thing is buried under a tower of chopped scallions, organic micro-greens and popcorn shoots with a soy-reduction dressing. The result is a dish that’s fragrant, sweet, grassy and hot. $15.
Foxley, 207 Ossington Ave., 416-534-8520.
Named after owner Sylvia Llewellyn’s mother, this kitschy 14-year-old grocery-store-turned-restaurant is popular with those seeking a taste of Havana. Julie’s no-fuss ceviche features marlin cooked in freshly squeezed lime, orange and red grapefruit juice. The fragrant fish mingles with crisp red onions, plump corn kernels, bell peppers and parsley. The mild ceviche is finished with a tiny touch of chili and stacked high over a cool bed of chopped tomatoes. $8.95.
Julie’s Cuban Restaurant, 202 Dovercourt Rd., 416-532-7397, juliescuban.com.
Toronto’s only Nicaraguan restaurant serves a ceviche mixto with firm diced shrimps and cod. The confetti of lime juice–marinated seafood is mixed with crisp bell peppers, red onions and cilantro, then served with ribbons of fresh fried plantain chips and sliced avocado. It’s a loose and refreshing starter that satisfies both mouths and wallets. Particularly refreshing when washed down with a glass of cold orange-cantaloupe juice. $9.25.
La Bella Managua, 872 Bloor St. W., 416-913-4227, bellamanagua.foodpages.ca.