Food

Critic's Choice: Cool, creative ceviche

Is ceviche poised to become as popular as sushi or sashimi in L.A.? It could happen. I'm thinking Ricardo Zarate is onto something as the Peruvian chef (Mo-Chica, Picca) gets ready to open a ceviche concept called Paiche. Raw seafood marinated in lime juice with chiles and cilantro and other elements suits a Southern California palate. It's cool and refreshing, packs in vibrant flavors and is light on the calories.

Picca, Peruvian Cantina

We've already gotten a taste of Zarate's ceviche style at Picca, his upscale cantina, where he has three (and sometimes more) ceviches on the menu. His flavors are sharp and focused, and each dish plays up the textures of the various seafood. He's not timid with the spicing either. Watch out for ceviche criollo made with chunks of sea bass with choclo (giant dried corn), bright orange sweet potato in a fiery leche de tigre ("tiger's milk") marinade. I love too the way halibut plays against crispy calamari and Japanese seaweed in his ceviche croccante.

9575 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 277-0133; http://www.piccaperu.com. Ceviche, $15 to $17.

La Cevicheria

This simple place near West Adams specializes in — no surprise — ceviche. The specialty is concha negra, bloody-clam ceviche, a heady mix of the dark burgundy clams with diced tomato, onion, avocado and mint in a tart broth spiked with Worcestershire. You can order it mixto too, dotted with octopus and shrimp. Guatemalan mixed ceviche — with crab, shrimp and thin rounds of violet-edged octopus — is a finer cut, almost a seafood salad in a bowl. There's a Peruvian style ceviche too, with red snapper, aji pepper and boiled potatoes. Great for lunch or a quick snack. The kitchen closes at 7:30 p.m. most nights.

3809 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 732-1253. Cash only. BYOB. Ceviche, $12 to $17.

Nobu Malibu

One of sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa's signature dishes is ceviche. Remember, he worked in Peru before coming to L.A. In his kitchen, though, instead of marinating the seafood, he mixes it with the sauce to order. At the new Nobu Malibu, you can nibble on lobster ceviche on limestone lettuce while enjoying ocean views through the floor-to-ceiling windows. It's got to be the classiest spot for ceviche anywhere. In his cookbook, he writes about opening Nobu New York in 1993, when hardly anyone knew what ceviche was. Now they do, and it's partly due to his restaurants' influence.

22706 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, (310) 317-9140, http://www.noburestaurants.com. Ceviche, $16 to $19.

irene.virbila@latimes.com

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