Dining: Ceviche rules

Monday night is ceviche night at Tapeo

Tapeo restaurant (photo credit: POOL)
Tapeo restaurant
(photo credit: POOL)
Not content with its reputation for serving among the best sushi in Israel, the Onami Group has set its sights on that other raw fish delight, ceviche.
Tapeo, the tapas bar next to Onami, offers the Latin American specialty every night; but real fans will want to turn up on a Monday evening, when a special ceviche menu expands the options.
The atmosphere is very much that of a bar: The music is loud, making table conversation and even ordering a challenge, and the lighting is dim.
There is also as much bar seating as seats at tables.
Even the cocktail menu develops a Latin accent on Mondays, when tropical fruits get star billing. The Rico Kwai Feh (NIS 44) combines Stoli vanilla with berries, lime and lychee liqueur. The consistency and taste resemble melted sorbet.
Slightly more refreshing is the Carlito (NIS 44): vodka with sabras, mango, lemon and mint, garnished with a cinnamon stick. The freshness of the prickly pear really comes through in this seasonal drink.
Ceviche night makes its mark on the tapas side of the menu as well.
The Pincho is a Monday special: fresh anchovy on toasted brioche, with roasted red bell pepper. The fish is as thick as a sardine but bears no relationship to the flat, salty version that comes out of a tin.
Quite simply, it is the best anchovy I have had in Israel.
Five ceviche dishes are featured on the Monday menu, and we tasted them in order of appearance.
The Sea Bass Ceviche (NIS 42) were thick chunks of fish in a lemon and chive vinaigrette, with herbs and red onion. Unlike most ceviche dishes, this one was accompanied by a spicy pepper sauce – and a good thing, too. The creamy chili pepper salsa added just the right amount of heat.
The Pescado del Mar (literally,”fish from the sea”) (NIS 44) was thinly sliced raw yellowtail on a julienned root salad, dressed with a mango and habanero chili sauce. Although light on actual slivers of mango, the interplay of the sweet fruit with the spicy chili pepper was outstanding.
The Tart Gambas (NIS 44) was shrimp ceviche with an avocado sauce, served on what a crispy tortilla. The fennel, peppers and coriander marinade was flavorful, but the overall excellence of the dish was mitigated by several drawbacks, The shrimp was diced so finely that it really was not distinguishable in looks or taste from any other fish or seafood, while the sauce, which was a bit heavy on mayonnaise, seeped into the wheat cracker base, leaving it soggy.
The Pulpo Carpaccio (NIS 40) featured flattened octopus seasoned with smoked paprika, spicy pickled peppers and tiny basil leaves. The micro-thin slices of seafood, akin to a delicate seafood sausage, were elevated by the superb marinade.
Finally, the Red Tuna (NIS 56) represented a mild but welcome departure from orthodoxy. The fresh tuna, seasoned with sumac and paprika, was very gently seared.
Served with roasted beets and a mild salsa verde, the curls of tuna resembled the flesh of a ripe fig. As good as all chef Avi Cohen’s ceviche dishes were, this was the star of the evening.
For dessert, there was no doubt we would choose the churros (NIS 38), the finger-shaped doughnuts that are a favorite of the Spanish-speaking world. These were fried to perfection, with a slightly crisp exterior and a fluffy interior. Dipped into decadently rich sauces of chocolate fudge and caramel, the churros were a delicious conclusion to an evening of memorable cuisine.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Not kosher
16 Ha’arba’a Street, Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 624-0484