Thursday, May 28, 2009

Restaurants - Ceiba

My husband and I went on a very, very short trip to Washington DC this past weekend, and managed to pack in a few good restaurants while on our last romantic hurrah before baby #2 comes along. (My apologies to my Aunt, whom we did not get to see, as we were out nearly as soon as we were in the city. And thanks to my mom who kept our 3-year-old out of trouble, and showed her a great time, while we were away.)

The best of our sampling of restaurants, by far, was Ceiba, a Latin American restaurant, with a little Caribbean mixed in. It ain't cheap, but remember, we were going for romance and wow, not just filling our stomachs. Perhaps the only minus was the somewhat over-zealous wait staff, but that didn't manage to spoil a nearly perfect eating experience.

We lucked out a bit with seating. We were in a bright room that looked out onto the street. The inner rooms of the restaurant were not as inviting. The decor was nothing special, but I'm not one to be wowed by decor anyway. It was certainly modern and clean, and that works for me. Perhaps a little ethnic something-or-other wouldn't hurt.

Being our first romantic night out in some time, we did splurge a bit on food. We started with the Sampling of Ceviches, which included their Peruvian Clasico, Yucatan Shrimp, Yellowfin Tuna, and Wild Striped Bass ceviches (they were arranged in this order, each one being progressively hotter than the last). Yum! They were all so original! I think of ceviche as relatively simple and undressed, save some citrus juice and maybe a hint of heat. These were quite complicated, each in its own very distinct way, and yet they didn't confuse the palate. The flavors all worked well together, and even though each ceviche was different, moving from one to the next was not at all problematic.

We also had the Shredded Duck and Three Cheese Poblano Chili Relleno, another appetizer. The duck was so flavorful, and not a meat I would ever imagine having in a chili relleno. More often than not, I've had them stuffed primarily with cheese, which I find texturally very unappealing. I've had them done well with shredded pork, and this was similar to that sort of application. I think the real success of this dish is that the components of it could each be experienced separately and in combination, since everything stood out: the duck, the cheeses, the salsa, the relish.

For our main courses, my husband had the Slow Braised Pork Shank "Feijoada" and I had the Grilled Sugar Cane Skewered Jumbo Shrimp. Both were flawless. We cleaned our plates (which is par for the course for me, but my husband is usually a leftover-leaver). The pork was incredibly tender and flavorful. The shrimp tasted just as they should be, like shrimp. I often get annoyed at the way shellfish is prepared in restaurants; it's so often mixed into something, drenched in a sauce, or hidden in some other way. Why do people pay so much money for something that will only be buried in something else? I like my shellfish fairly naked, and that's just how this was. It had a subtle, sweet glaze and a slight char from the grill, but the taste was truly that of shrimp. It wasn't even slightly overcooked, as so much restaurant shrimp is. In an embarrassing moment, my eagerness to eat as much of the shrimp as I could got the better of me, and I accidentally flung a shrimp halfway across the room while attempting to de-skewer it. Our waiter quickly swiped it up, and next thing I knew, I was being served a replacement! Apparently, they were as eager to indulge me as I was to be indulged.

Alas, when the time for dessert arrived, we couldn't fit another bite into our glutinous selves, though there was plenty to entice! This, and the many other entrees and appetizers that we did not get to sample are reason enough for me to want to go back. I do hope this restaurant sticks around for quite some time, so I might have the opportunity to do just that.

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