By: Tracey Teo
Sayonara, sushi. Hola, ceviche. Americans have been dunking bits of raw seafood in wasabi-infused soy sauce for decades, but lately, the Japanese snack is getting upstaged by its trendier Latin American cousin, ceviche. Seafood lovers are discovering the delights of fish, shrimp or scallops cured in an acidic marinade of lemon or lime juice spiked with a blend of taste bud-tingling spices.
Sushi bars are common, but ceviche bars can be elusive – unless you happen to be a guest at Coconut Point Resort and Spa, a luxury Hyatt Regency property in Bonita Springs, Florida.
The ice bar at Tarpon Bay, the resort’s fine dining restaurant, features an impressive array of ceviche, and many diners kick off their evening with this delectable chilled appetizer that is akin to biting into a fresh ocean breeze.
Executive Chef Andreas Singer is the man ultimately responsible for ensuring the quality, freshness, and striking presentation of everything that comes out of the kitchen, and he takes special pride in the compliments he and his staff receive from seafood enthusiasts that live far, far from the ocean. Singer himself was born and raised in landlocked Austria, but his career took him to far flung beach destinations where he became acquainted with the wondrous bounty of the sea.
When it comes to ceviche, Singer says the conch is his personal favorite. “I really developed a love for conch while working at the Hyatt on Grand Cayman. We used to prepare it on the boats, fresh out of the shell. At Tarpon Bay, we use the spice of the Caribbean Scotch bonnet pepper for a buttery-fiery flavor.”
The shrimp ceviche, made with cumin-dusted roasted corn, red onions and a splash of tequila, is a piquant-flavored masterpiece that smacks of the Mayan Riviera.
Want the flavor without the fire? Try the grouper. Ceviche derived from this mild, firm fish gets its personality from tropical fruits – namely, mango, papaya, and pineapple. If you can’t choose just one variety of ceviche, no worries. A sampler platter is available – perfect for sharing with friends over a glass of white wine.
Of course, not all of the restaurant’s delicious seafood is served at the ice bar. Eventually, everyone has to scoop up the last bit of ceviche and move on to the main course. For many, that means crispy whole snapper served with tart Japanese ponzu dip. Weighing between two and three pounds, this fresh-off-the-boat fish sourced from Key West is as big as the plate.
Another popular option is the Chilean sea bass Veracruzana. Served over a bed of saffron-scented rice pilaf, the baked fish is topped with an herbed tomato olive sauce.