Make us your home page
Instagram

Restaurant review: Ceviche in Tampa reimagines its menu and concept, with mixed results

TAMPA

Matthew Rainey's first order of business as the corporate chef for Caledon Concepts was to reinvent the bay area's three Ceviche restaurants — new menu, new plates and cutlery, new presentations. A fresh look. The chef, who was hired on as the executive chef of Rococo Steak in St. Petersburg last year, has an ambition and competence that quickly propelled him to become the corporate chef for Caledon, the parent company that also owns Ceviche. He rolled out his new vision in the Tampa Ceviche location at the beginning of September, with the Orlando and St. Petersburg locations to follow.

It's a smart instinct. The Ceviche group hasn't changed much over the past decade, its menu a vast, nearly blowsy array of tapas and more substantive dishes like paella. Rainey, with a curator's precision, trimmed the lineup from 83 items to 52, excising poor sellers and keeping an eye on seasonality.

After a couple of visits, I can say that many of the edits and dish tuneups make a lot of sense. There are losses (one tear for the disappearance of the potato chips with the blue cheese), and a handful of things that should be rethought (the house bread, an anemic weakling from Sysco, is not complemented by a bowl of herbed olive oil that tasted off), but the overall effect is more contemporary and stylish.

But there's also this: It's less coherently Spanish. With a long-standing reputation for Spanish small plates, the message is a bit muddier with this briefer menu. Hummus ($6) and baba ghanouj ($7)? Surely there are more resoundingly Spanish spins on chickpeas and eggplant (though the Spanish paprika in the hummus is a nice touch). And two of the four ceviches are now more Ecuadorian/Peruvian style. But they are tasty and elegantly presented, the shrimp version ($11) with a balanced coconut-citrus flavor and just a bit of serrano sizzle, the plush, limey tuna version ($13) accessorized with classic nuggets of fried Cuzco corn.

A more "world beat" approach is the modus operandi for so many restaurants right now, and on a Tuesday night when hot and cold tapas are discounted and sangria is $5, Ceviche's fans seemed gung-ho about the changes.

I applaud the livelier tomato sauce on the chorizo-pork-veal albondigas ($9), as well as the new sherry cream sauce that is the bed for the stuffed piquillo peppers ($9, but the filling read like a paste, much too finely ground to be texturally appealing). The plate of haricots verts with garlic, lemon and a sprinkling of toasted marcona almonds ($7) is a welcome addition, and the grilled octopus from Spain or Portugal ($11) brings an arresting plate with discs of saffron potato and pickled red onion. Sadly, the octopus itself was egregiously overcooked and the texture of jerky. Fried calamari ($10), always a big seller, has been taken in a more fritura mixta direction with the addition of fried shrimp and shishito peppers (these are everywhere these days, every 10th pepper a fiery little sinus clearer), but its flurry of Parmesan seems unnecessary and a little confusing.

Service, which has always been a mixed bag at the various Ceviche locations, continues in that vein: One evening our server adopted a fairly laissez-faire approach, another night a manager hovered, the words "mesdames et messieurs" oddly appended to every sentence. That said, the wine list and cocktail program are looking spiffy under director of operations Dave Madera and newish Caledon president Lee Karlins. And Rainey's new direction, menu-editing and more rigorous presentations position the small regional chain to stay competitive in a market that is increasingly awash in small-plate concepts.

Contact Laura Reiley at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.

.

Ceviche

2500 W Azeele St., Tampa; (813) 250-0203

Cuisine: Spanish tapas

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday and Monday, until 11 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; live entertainment Thursdays 8 to 10:45 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 p.m. to 12:45 a.m.

Details: AmEx, V, MC, Disc.; reservations accepted for parties of 6 or more; full bar

Prices: Ceviches $10-$13, tapas $5-$13, paella $22-$35

Rating, out of four stars:

Food: ★★ Service: ★★

Atmosphere: ★★★

Overall: ★★½

Restaurant review: Ceviche in Tampa reimagines its menu and concept, with mixed results 10/10/16 [Last modified: Monday, October 10, 2016 10:08am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  2. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17
  3. ‘80s acts dominate lineup of 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

    Blogs

    Oh, yes. Christmas is coming early this year to ‘80s fans in Florida. Disney’s Epcot Center has announced the lineup to its “Eat to the Beat” concert series that coincides with their annual International Food & Wine Festival.

  4. Equality Florida leader honored at Tampa U2 concert

    Briefs

    TAMPA — Equality Florida director Nadine Smith couldn't attend last week's U2 concert in Tampa, but she can tell you which of her friends had great seats for the June 14 show at Raymond James Stadium.

    Nadine Smith, Equality Florida founder and CEO, received a unique distinction last week when U2 included her in a montage of photos saluting activism and women leaders.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 23

    Events

    Leslie Odom Jr.: A solo concert by the Broadway star who won a Tony for his performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. 7 p.m., Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $35.50-$55.50. (813) 229-7827.

    Leslie Odom Jr. accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical in "Hamilton"  during the 70th Annual Tony Awards  on June 12, 2016.  (Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)