People loved the ceviche Juan Carlos Récamier made for a friend's gathering so much that they told him he should sell it. It seemed a natural transition as he'd been creating recipes in his mother's kitchen long before he began cooking in restaurants at the age of 18.
After performing some serious legwork, he started selling ceviche at farmers markets across San Diego.
Ceviche is a dish thought to have originated in Peru where fish is "cooked" by citrus in lieu of heat. It's a light meal that jibes perfectly with healthy SoCal lifestyles but can be so easily wrecked by poor quality seafood or chewy textures resulting from lengthy marinating. Chef Récamier's recipes involve no such negatives and quickly became so well-known within the markets that this time it was his customers who encouraged him to take it to the next level.
"People loved the product but I wanted to create a more progressive menu in regard to Mexican seafood," he said. So last December, he and his wife, Viviana Callu, opened Ceviche House, a cozy brick-and-mortar spot in North Park , not too far from the North Park Farmers Market where they initially met. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
His menu typically includes six or seven types of ceviche named after beaches and ports in Mexico that are served on a choice of a baked tostada, lettuce wedge or in a bowl with chips on the side. Those who crave traditional Mexican ceviche should gravitate toward the Acapulco (seasonal local white fish), Puerto (shrimp) Ceviche and the Shrimp Aguachile. Innovative combos include Veracruz (shrimp and bay scallop) Ceviche with mango and Cajun seasoning, and Ensenada (local yellowtail) Ceviche with pomegranates, watermelon and chili sesame oil to give it a nice kick.
One may also enjoy tiraditos, a Latin American version of sashimi, and warm items like the very popular gobernador tostada (fire roasted shrimp and cheese) that is Ceviche House's homage to the gobernador taco in Mexico. There actually isn't one must-eat here. "Thankfully, our whole menu has been popular," Callu said. "It just depends what people are craving."
Everything is made-to-order, which is something you can do with locally and responsibly sourced ingredients and by completely skipping frozen fare. Fish is bought daily from San Diego fishermen and Catalina Offshore Products while produce comes from Specialty Produce and local farmers.
"We really believe that people should know what they are putting in to their bodies," Récamier said. "If we can have a solid impact on our community through our sourcing practices and at the same time provide a delicious experience, we feel we are doing our part."
The bright and cheerful space seats just 10 inside and eight outside. They plan to grow but only in a way that allows them to produce delicious eats with the same emphasis on sustainability, health, wellness and flavor.
4594 30th St., North Park. cevichehousesd.com
Katie Dillon is a lifestyle and travel writer who believes that one of the best ways to explore a city is through its food and drinks. Follow her adventures on social media at @lajollamom and send any tasty ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.