We've Found the Ceviche of Your Dreams
by lee klein
Cvi.che 105’s Ceviche Ganador brings peppery depth to the Peruvian favorite.
Cvi.che 105’s winning Ceviche Ganador is garnished with choclo (jumbo Peruvian corn kernels), cancha (Andean roasted corn nuts), and a rectangle of sweet potato.
It took only 25 minutes for Juan Chipoco to create what he now calls Ceviche Ganador, one of the most popular items on his menu. It occurred around midnight, as he and Cvi.che 105 partner Luis Hoyos arrived at their restaurant after returning from a trip to Peru. They needed to prepare for a ceviche competition at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill the next day. “It’s late, but I have to come up with something different,” Chipoco told Hoyos. “I have to catch attention.” So he combined a bit of “this, this, and this,” made a reduction from a medley of peppers, and nailed his entry on the first try. “The taste was amazing.”
The Secrets of Citrus
Chipoco attributes the unique quality of this ceviche to the ingredients. The corvina and much of the shellfish are imported from Lima, as are the choclo (jumbo Peruvian corn kernels) and aji limo. The real difference, however, derives from the citrus. “The lime has to be perfect,” the chef cautions. The ones he uses come from Peru, which are smaller, juicier, and more flavorful than those grown in the States. “If you squeeze a lime from around here, the ceviche can be bitter, and that’s no good.” Neither is overmaceration. “We cut the fish and squeeze the lime on top for one minute. That’s it.”
The pristine corvina and much of the shellfish are imported from Lima, adding a unique flavor.
Chipoco briskly slices pristine corvina into bite-size cubes that are placed into a stainless steel bowl with chilled, lightly cooked shrimp, calamari, and octopus. He raises his right hand high to orchestrate dashes of sea salt, then likewise with black pepper. A spirited squeeze of fresh limes follows, and next a ladle of the pale-pink reduction sauce derived from a pair of pungent peppers—aji limo and rocoto—with smoky aji panca contributing depth. This soft-hued liquid disconcertingly resembles Russian dressing, which makes its addition seem like splashing graffiti onto the sacred stones of Machu Picchu. But vibrant juices from the citrus and ceviche (leche de tigre) thin the sauce to a watercolor of pastel piquancy; the fresh seafood notes remain bright and staccato.
After placing a generous serving of ceviche in the center of a plate, Chipoco gently sprinkles chopped cilantro and wisps of red onion along the top. The mélange is further garnished with plump mussels, choclo, crunchy cancha (the Andean version of roasted corn nuts), and a neat rectangle of sweet potato cooked with a glaze of orange juice, cloves, and honey. “This makes it even sweeter in order to balance the citrus.”
Juan Chipoco assembling a plate of his ceviche, which has quickly become one of the most popular dishes on the menu at Cvi.che 105.
And the Winner Is...
While the other 11 contending chefs at the ceviche competition each presented 10 samples of their entry—one per judge—Chipoco prepared a single platter for them to share. “Oh my God, I was so embarrassed,” he says. The shame didn’t last long. The judges’ verdict led him to name his ceviche ganador, which translates to “winner.” 105 NE Third Ave., Miami, 305-577-3454
photography by gesi schilling
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.