Will You Marinade Me? LA’s Ceviche Project Will
If you are a ceviche connoisseur, one of the most innovative cevicherias to dine in Los Angeles, doesn’t have a permanent location. And it’s not a roving taco truck or a pop-up resto. It’s a movable dining experience called the Ceviche Project held in restaurants or bars closed for the day.
Like an underground warehouse party, you sign up on the Ceviche Project website to join the mailing list. Once you RSVP to a five-course supper, you will receive an email with the secret location.
The Ceviche Project 5-course menu (roughly $75 a person, including a wine pairing) usually begins with oysters with Mexican-style accompaniments, tiradito (a style of ceviche with olive oil, garlic and chilies), traditional ceviche courses including an octopus and/or a spicy aguachile shrimp course followed by dessert, which usually incorporates capsicum heat. Diners are welcome to mill around afterwards and listen to Ceviche Project chef Octavio Olivas DJ set ranging from calypso to 1950s cumbia.
Octavio Olivas founded the Ceviche Project over a year ago. A non-profit attorney by day, Olivas has had ceviche marinade, called leche de tigre, coursing through his veins since he was a boy growing up in Mexico City, where he and his family packed up a Volkswagen conversion van to camp and fish at beaches throughout the Mexican coast. The catch of the day was quickly prepared in a basic ceviche marinade, which ingrained Olivas into the delectable simplicity of raw fish, salt and citrus juices served with a cold Tecate.
As a law student, Olivas also traveled to New York and London, where he worked in restaurants and bars, and caught the bug to open his own establishment. After finishing a post-JD degree in LA, Olivas struck out to open his own cevicheria, using his family’s style of preparation and recipes. He persuaded Dustin Lancaster, the owner of Covell, a popular Los Feliz wine bar, to hold the first Ceviche Project there on a Sunday afternoon (subsequent ones have been held at neighboring Speranza, L&E Oyster Bar, Blossom, Vinoteca and Pattern Bar). Olivas is using the Ceviche Project as a precursor to someday opening a fine cevicheria establishment.
Olivas bases his ceviche on the Mexican preparation of the dish that has the fish marinating for hours as opposed to other styles such as Peruvian, which flash marinade. A Mexican-style ceviche comes served with chopped onions, tomato and cilantro –the tricolor of the country’s flag. He also incorporates other styles of ceviche from Latin America and the Pacific. Olivas professes his only secret weapon is an eye and nose for quality. He hits local LA fish markets at the crack of dawn for the freshest fish to make ceviche, preferably white firm-flesh fish such as sea bass, fluke, halibut or snapper. Olivas gave me his rules for selecting the freshest fish for ceviche.
Ceviche Project’s Octavio Olivas Tips for Selecting Fish for Ceviche
1. Make sure the eyes of the fish are clear not cloudy.
2. The gills should be bright red. If they’re brown turn them down.
3. The skin should be firm and should not look like it’s been in the ring with Manny Pacquiao.
4. The fish shouldn’t smell too much like a fish.