By Robin Garr
More than a year later, when the local food critic finally heads out to a fine local restaurant for a relaxing sit-down dinner, where does he go? For me, the answer is simple: It has to be Seviche.
I’m always reluctant to name any restaurant my Number One, as any of five or ten favorites could wear the crown on any given day. But Seviche always makes me happy.
Now, a brief obligatory caution: The pandemic is not over, so even with vaccinations, let’s be careful out there. We’ve made it this far, let’s not blow it now.
I admire Seviche’s broad culinary tour of all the Americas, and the way that award-winning Chef Anthony Lamas elevates it to new heights. I like its simple, cool vibe, white-tablecloth service, and big windows looking out over Bardstown Road through galaxies of tiny fairy lights.
But most of all, it’s about the food. I know I’ll enjoy whatever I order at Seviche, from its trademark seviches to a Latin-accented steak or even an intriguing vegetarian plate. I’m happy to say that my high opinion of Seviche continues. Everything about this dinner – the mood, the food, and the service – struck just the right note, with dishes prepared and plated to perfection.
We almost invariably start with a mojito ($11), the classic Cuban rum and mint cocktail, and this time nursed a tall one all through dinner.
We shared an appetizer and a salad and were impressed with both. A green chili caesar ($13) was perfectly prepared, cool and ready for summer. Cool, crisp romaine leaves cut in neat squares were dressed with thinly sliced radishes plus pepitas, manchego cheese, and crunchy bits of homemade tortilla crisp.
Blistered shishito peppers ($9) frequently show up as an appetizer special, and I get it whenever it does. There must have. been 20 little-finger size greenish, modestly hot but not fiery peppers on the plate. They had been grill-seared with slices of red onion and plated with a couple of edible nasturtiums on a tongue-tingling soy-lime glaze and sprinkled with white and black benne seeds, the nutty-flavor Africa-rooted version of sesame seeds from the Carolina Low Country.
We inquired about some bread or crackers to go with the salad and deliciously oily peppers and received three excellent grilled strips from artisan white-bread loaves.
You can’t come to Seviche without trying the trademark dish, or at least we can’t. Ahi tuna seviche ($19), pictured at the top of the page, was an excellent choice. It came in a smallish black bowl nested in a larger white bowl, but there was plenty of protein packed into that compact space. A dozen cubes of marinated ahi tuna were packed in an umami-rich coconut-ginger broth with a salty shot of soy, and garnished with strips of raw carrot, tomato, onion, and a tiny micro-green. A thick round of raw jalapeño added a spark of color and abundant heat.
My only disappointment came not because a dish was lacking in quality, but because it had disappeared. Here’s how: Examining the menu in advance, I spotted a $27 entree that made my taste buds tingle: Frondosa Farm mushroom enchiladas with charred poblano, salsa verde, and black truffle crema. It sounded wonderful, and I always like to include one meatless item in my reviews anyway. But even though it was on the website, it turned out to be off the menu. Waaaah! A $15 forest mushroom and goat cheese empanada was 86’d also, and there was no vegetarian option remaining.
Our server, apologetically, consulted with the kitchen, and proposed a vegetable chaufa ($27), a spicy, flavorful Peruvian take on fried rice brought there by Chinese immigrants. I couldn’t complain, as it proved very tasty indeed. A cross between Asian fried rice and Latin arroz con pollo without the pollo, it was a bright orange-yellow mound of rice fried in a rich, almost unctuous blend with red, yellow, and green bell pepper strips, baby pea pods sliced longways, carrot strips, and edamame, all plated on soy-lime glaze and topped with big, fresh green broccoli florets.
We couldn’t do this first serious evening dining-in without indulging in desserts, and Seviche satisfied as usual.
Three huge balls of black – really black – cherry ice cream ($9) were dense and deliciously intense. Embedded in every ball of rich, dark ice cream were a few partly frozen black cherries; it was plated on a square black slate, artfully decorated with white crema, a few more black cherries, and mint sprigs.
It was a striking dessert, and so in its own way was Seviche’s lemon-rosemary panna cotta ($9), subtle and light, yin to the black cherry ice cream’s yang. A disk of creamy panna cotta centered on a white plate; it was light and lemony with a whiff of aromatic rosemary. It was sprinkled with pistachio biscotti crumbs, striped with raspberry balsamic, and finished with a few raspberries and tiny mint leaves.
Espresso ($4) – one decaf and mine not – was well-made, properly but not excessively bitter.
A memorable meal for two was $122.96, plus a $30 tip for our server, Bethany, who kept us cared for on a busy Saturday night.