Reaching For The Stars
Ceiba offers an engaging menu inspired by our neighbors to the South: Brazil, Cuba, the Caribbean, El Salvador, and Peru. Specialties also include Mexican fresh flavors and favorites from Veracruz and the Yucatan. What is presented is a wonderful fusion of exotic and festive tastes, capturing the world of sun-drenched lands with a vigor and intensity without equal on today’s dining scene.
Of course, you will recognize classic dishes such as Cuban Black Bean Soup and Red Snapper Veracruz. However, with the use of innovative ingredients and novel cooking techniques, these are elevated to new levels of culinary pleasure.
Ceiba is the inspiration and latest venture of Executive Chef Jeff Tunks, along with co-owners Gus DiMillo and David Wizenberg. Their earlier entrants on the capital scene include popular
Chris Clime is Ceiba’s Chef de Cuisine, having spent part of his childhood in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, where he developed a fondness for local culture and ethnic cuisine. David Guas is the Executive Pastry Chef for Ceiba - a native of
Ethnic Drinks and Boutique Vineyards
Another drink is the Brazilian caipirinha, containing Pitu cachaça, muddled fresh lime and, of course, guarapo. But my favorite is the “puckery” pisco sour, ever popular in
Since we will have both appetizers and entrées, I ask our waiter, Scott, for wine-pairing with the meal. Featuring wines from North to South America, from
Appetizers are for Sharing
Appetizers are varied and generous at Ceiba; they are meant to be shared. Ranging from conch chowder and black bean soup to duck confit empanadas and stuffed quail, there is something for all tastes.
A truly delightful surprise is Scott’s recommendation of the Anaheim Chili Relleno with Mexican Rock Shrimp and Goat Cheese. I have difficulty remembering savoring such a crispy and delectable chili relleno. The batter is delicate, ever-so-light, enhancing the combination palette of earth and sea. Served with a charred yellow tomato salsa that is incredibly fresh, along with a satisfying black bean muñeta, the complement works extremely well. Alhough I sample chili rellenos everywhere I go, I remained convinced that the best are made in Temecula Valley,
In Search of Seafood
As co-owner of a bait & fuel dock on the Gulf Coast, my husband, Tom, is most discriminating when it comes to preparing seafood for the table, demanding only the best and freshest of the catch. For the entrée, he opts for the Whole Crispy Red Snapper Veracruz, garnished with tomatoes, olives, caper, and pickled jalapeño. An artful presentation of colors and texture, Tom says, “This is the best Snapper Veracruz that I have eaten 'catch of the day' fresh and with the seasoning, exquisitely executed.”
I select Seared Scallop a La Plancha for my entrée. A black bean masa gnocchi along with roasted sweet corn sauce and a Huitlacoche truffle aioli artfully surround these seafood gems. The extra-large pan-seared scallops are succulent, moist, and sweet. My only complaint is that the dish is a tad heavier than I prefer, especially since I am saving room for dessert.
I have yet to meet Executive Pastry Chef, David Guas, but judging from his photos, I wonder why he isn’t modeling upscale clothes for men’s fashionwear. On the other hand, the talents and sweetness he brings to the dessert table are “a little bit of heaven.” The hard choice is deciding which dessert to order, but, then I worry what I will miss. If only they had a sampler of David’s seven deadly sins flan, cheesecake, key lime tart, canela tapioca, cinnamon churros, Cuban coffee cake, and house made sorbet.
Elated to see choices other than ubiquitous chocolate that overwhelms so many dessert menus these days, I decide on traditional flan with coffee, while Tom goes for the vanilla-bean cheesecake with guava topping and mango-lime salad. Both prove to be sweet endings for an enchanted evening south of the border.
Then comes the lagniappe something extra: a paper cone of buttery caramel corn, begging to be eaten although, you may want to take it home for a midnight snack.
While the restaurant features regional tastes of Latin and South America, nevertheless, Ceiba is world-class in its combination of fusion foods and flavor. A rising star reaching for the heavens, it is deserving of not just any star, but a brilliant “gold star” rating.
By Karin Leperi, Washington D.C. Correspondent.