Puesto’s winning ceviche
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El Gringo and his señora dropped in at the 57 Degrees Wine Bar in San Diego Sunday for the Ceviche Showdown. A panel of four celebrity judges sampled a bit of each pescado plate to determine which would become San Diego’s “Top Fish.” Those in the crowd were asked to choose their favorites for the “People’s Choice” award.

Here is a rundown of the ten entrants, as well as El Gringo and Baja Luxury designer Ursula Koenig’s observations and ratings.

10) Finch’s Bistro and Wine Bar (La Jolla): Large morsels of salmon, sea bass, shrimp, and smoked halibut, all swimming in a slightly spicy base of lime, papaya, and coconut milk. Cabbage, celery, tomato, and a sprinkle of roe complete the dish. We liked the combination of ceviche and the tropics. OUR SCORE: 5 out of 5

9) Old Town Cafe (Old Town): Three types of ceviche — a mixed fish, shrimp and octopus; fish only; and a vegetarian gazpacho-style dish that substitutes cucumber. El Gringo had his very first ceviche years ago at this restaurant, and their classic ceviche preparation of seafood, lime juice, tomato, cilantro and avocado finished with a dash of habanero took me back. OUR SCORE: 4 out of 5

8) Fish Public (Kensington): One of the more elegantly presented entries. A stack of local Dover sole co-mingles with colorful red bell peppers, green cilantro, and celery atop a dollop of creamy avocado mousse. But we felt that the sole’s proteins broke down a bit too much during marination, losing texture and tooth. The marinade tasted of oil and vinegar dressing, which overpowered the delicate tastes this dish could highlight. OUR SCORE: 2.5 out of 5

7) George’s at the Cove (La Jolla) WINNER: People’s Choice Award: Won with good reason. Their ceviche of halibut is cured in seaweed, then marinated with lime juice and coconut milk. The dish also includes pepitas (seeds), bell pepper, and two dollops of jalapeño aioli, which were spicy and complemented the ingredients nicely. This was one of our favorites. OUR SCORE: 5 out of 5

6) Tequila Factory (Old Town): Served in a plastic tequila glass with a section of cucumber, the selection felt like more of a “hometown” preparation. There was nothing wrong, but the flavor profiles and combination of shrimp and dorado in lime juice in a spicy chipotle sauce with diced bell peppers and corn felt uninspired and heavy next to the other entries. OUR SCORE: 2 out of 5

5) Wet Stone (Bankers Hill): The chefs immediately marinate the daily catch of halibut. They combine lime juice, coconut milk, habanero chilies, cilantro, passion fruit, and a dollop of yam purée on top, while Peruvian conchas (toasted corn nuts) add a nice crunch to the mix. We both liked the way all of the tastes worked together, as well as the Peruvian/Mediterranean fusion of the dish. OUR SCORE: 4.5 out of 5

4) Viva Bar and Kitchen (downtown): The only true “Baja style” ceviche. The sea bass, diver scallop, and halibut were nicely sized and textured, maintaining just the right amount of firmness and tenderness. Keeping it Baja simple, the ceviche is finished with onion, tomato, and cilantro — utilitarian for sure. The substitution of a Sun Chip for a traditional tortilla chip was the only questionable choice. OUR SCORE: 3.5 out of 5

3) Duck Dive (Pacific Beach): Very simple and satisfying. Sea scallops are marinated in lemon juice instead of lime, so the taste of the seafood came through a bit more than with some of the other ceviches. Onion, cucumber, avocado, and chili oil are added to the mix and served atop a tostada. We enjoyed this ceviche’s mild, refreshing, and simple taste profile, one that focused on the fish. OUR SCORE: 4 out of 5

2) Puesto at the Headquarters (downtown) WINNER: Best Ceviche in San Diego: Two sous chefs worked behind Chef Luisteen, carefully plating the Yucatán-style dorado ceviche on a cold china dish. Impression made. The result reflected the care they showed in crafting their entry — named 2014 Best Ceviche in San Diego. The fish was perfectly “cooked” in lime juice, combined with pepitas, cilantro, and onion, then topped with an artfully displayed sprig of cilantro and avocado slice. A sweet beet purée elegantly finished the plate.  OUR SCORE: 5 out of 5

1) Allegro (downtown): Allegro Bistro is a new restaurant that will open soon in collaboration with 57 Degrees. One of the only entries that incorporated yellowtail — the Pacific is having an abundant season, so it just makes sense. A simple combination of roasted corn, cilantro, yellow bell pepper, and onion nicely complemented the lightly marinated fish. OUR SCORE: 4 out of 5.

Post Title: The Best Ceviche in San Diego: The 2014 Ceviche Showdown

Post Date: August 25, 2014

Blog: A Gringo in Mexico | Address: agringoinmexico.com

Author: W. Scott Koenig | From: College Area | Blogging since: March 2012

[Post edited for length]

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