Nothing is hotter right now in San Diego’s cross-border culinary scene than cool ceviche.
The citrus-spiked seafood dish might not be as ubiquitous as the taco, but it’s rightfully having its moment. Ceviche is the star at new eateries such as the sustainability-focused Ceviche House in North Park, the elegant Crudo in Carmel Valley and the cheeky ceviche-centric Como Ceviche! in the East Village.
Now, Sirena Cocina Latina, in Little Italy, is giving ceviche its ultimate due - a starring role in a guest chef series every Wednesday night. Sirena’s Ceviche Wednesdays’ line-up kicks off this week and will feature wines brought in from 24 Valle de Guadalupe wineries.
During Ceviche Wednesdays, which will take place from 5-9 p.m., the night’s special offerings can be ordered à la carte for $9 or in a “chef’s whim” flight of three ceviches, plus a craft beer for $21.
Meanwhile, diners will still be able to order from Sirena chef Jamie Chavez’s innovative, flavor-filled regular menu - which has recently been revamped. The Chilean-born, Barcelona trained chef’s own seriously sophisticated snapper ceviche is made with chile California, garlic, huacatay (also known as Peruvian black mint), serrano pepper, shallots, cilantro and candied orange peel.
From Chavez’s new menu, don’t miss the flavorful - and vegan - artichoke taco, with zesty chimichurri and a surprisingly luscious carrot mole. The ahi tuna tiradito, with grilled watermelon, lavender salt, black radish and huacatay pesto, is as delicious as it is artfully presented. Pure, pristine and pretty, the dish typifies why Sirena is one of the most exciting, yet inexplicably under-rated, restaurants in town.
Hopefully, the Ceviche Wednesdays series might raise Sirena’s profile. Sure to cause a stir will be the Dec. 21 appearance of guest chef Sabina Bandera, Ensenada’s street-cart seafood queen, aka La Guerrerense, herself.
Below is Sirena’s guest chef schedule, which includes some unexpected ceviche masters:
Dec. 7: Claudia Sandoval. San Diego’s fiery-haired force of nature won Season 6 of FOX’s “MasterChef” and is the author of “Claudia’s Cocina: A Taste of Mexico.”
Dec. 14: Melissa Mayer. Co-founder of Portland’s popular Olympia Oyster Bar, she is a San Diego transplant.
Dec. 21: Sabina Bandera. The diminuitive chef with the outsized smile - and skills - Bandera recently opened her first sit-down restaurant in Ensenada, Sabina Restuarante, where you can enjoy the same cult-status ceviche tostadas that she serves at her food truck across the street. This way, when your knees buckle, at least you’ll be sitting down.
Jan. 4: Bernard Guillas. The classically trained French chef, and executive chef of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, the Shores Restaurant and the iconic Marine Room, knows his way around fish and seafood. In fact, on the cover of one of his cookbooks, “Two Chefs, One Catch: A Culinary Exploration of Seafood,” he’s cradling a giant fish.
Jan. 11: James Montejano. The executive chef at Cardiff Seaside Market - which is known for its Burgundy pepper “Cardiff crack” tri-tip - is an Escondido native who spent decades helming the kitchens at fine-dining establishments.
Jan. 18: Isabel Cruz. Known for her Isabel’s Cantina in Pacific Beach, Cruz has been long been an admired fixture in San Diego’s food scene.
Jan. 25: Troy Johnson. The San Diego Magazine dining critic and regular judge on Guy Fieri’s “Guy’s Grocery Games,” on the Food Network, will be the one judged this time. We’re not sure Johnson knows his way around citrus, spice and seafood, but we can guarantee he’ll make an engaging evening out if it.
Sirena Cocina Latina, 1901 Columbia St., Little Italy. 619.564.8970 or sirenacocina.com