Charleston restaurants offer an abundance of fresh seafood dishes like crudo, tartare and sushi. But one South American seafood dish has found its place on Holy City menus: ceviche.
“Ceviche is just seafood cooked in citrus,” said Raul Sanchez, executive chef and owner of Maya del Sol Kitchen. “Lemon, lime, orange — whatever you get your hands on.”
Peruvians claim to have invented ceviche, Sanchez said. Peruvians have something called leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), a “juice concoction” of raw fish, citrus juice like lime and lemon, ginger, garlic and habanero blended together to form a briney liquid. That liquid is then used to make ceviche.
There are many different combinations of fish, citrus, pepper and aromatic elements used to create the dish. And with seafood and fresh local vegetables aplenty in the Charleston area, ceviche should be a no-brainer on a menu.
It’s deliciously refreshing and easy to make at home (just remember to let the fish “cook” in the citrus for at least two to three hours before serving). But if you want a taste of what the city’s restaurants have to offer, here are five places with their own takes on ceviche.
252 Coming St., Downtown.
Open Tues.-Sat. (Dinner)
Ceviche is always on the menu at this sustainable seafood restaurant, but the type of fish and selected ingredients are constantly changing. “It’s a great vehicle for us to utilize different species because we can run for one day, and then switch it up,” said owner and chef James London. “We always incorporate seasonal ingredients, too. So in the springtime, we’re gonna fold in sugar snap peas. In the summertime, we’ll have heirloom tomatoes, fresh cucumbers. We always try to keep it seasonal so that it’s always fresh and current.”
Coast Bar & Grill
39D John St., Downtown
Open daily (Dinner)
Start your meal at Coast with two different ceviches — a classic shrimp ceviche and cangrejo ceviche. Shrimp is the obvious star of the shrimp ceviche, but tomato, onion, lime juice and cilantro highlight the dish’s freshness and a side of corn chips add a crunchy element. The cangrejo, though, is for those with a sea-faring palate. It combines blue crab and scallops with pico de gallo and juice from lemons, limes and oranges.
Maya del Sol Kitchen
1813 Reynolds Ave. Suite B, North Charleston
Open Wed.-Fri. (Lunch), Sun. (Brunch).
Dinner reservations available online.
Ceviche isn’t always on the menu, but it shows up in Sanchez’s special dinner reservations. “I make it quite often during the summer season because obviously it’s so hot,” Sanchez said. And sometimes, it’s the focus of a multi-course meal, like during his international ceviche night where he serves five ceviche courses with different countries’ variations. “What I’ve noticed across Latin America, there’s that one item that distinguishes them from the rest,” he added. “Guatemalans like to add ketchup; Colombia adds mayonnaise; Venezuela and Argentina add a lot of fruit juices and fresh fruit; Spain might poach their seafood before serving.” He plans to do another ceviche night this summer, so don’t miss out.
MOMO at Riverfront
1049 Everglades Ave., North Charleston
Open Tues.-Sun. (Lunch and dinner)
Enjoy fresh seafood along the water at MOMO, located in North Charleston’s Riverfront Park, with its ever-changing ceviche offerings. The fish used in MOMO’s ceviche changes daily, and is served with the Peruvian leche de tigre and togarashi. If you’re really craving seafood, the ceviche is also offered in the single and double seafood tower, which includes six to 12 oysters, a half pound to one pound of chilled shrimp and smoked fish pâté alongside the ceviche of the day. Wash down all the saline with sweet, savory or refreshing cocktails from MOMO’s bar.
32 N. Market St. Suite C, Downtown
Open daily (Lunch and dinner)
Top Chef alum and chef-partner Jamie Lynch of 5th Street Group’s Tempest takes a completely different spin on the restaurant’s ceviche. Like some of its downtown neighbors, Tempest’s fish selection changes daily. However, Lynch adds some unconventional ingredients to the dish, like an elderflower liqueur. The elderflower liqueur adds an element of sweetness, but also provides an additional citrus component to the meal. To balance the acidity, the ceviche is also made with buttermilk crema, beets and Fresno peppers, to add heat.
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.