Ceiba offers Washingtonians a taste of Latin America.

Photo courtesy of Ceiba.

So tonight (Tuesday, February 20, 2007) I visited yet another one of Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants — Ceiba (pronounced SAY-Bah).  Ceiba is owned by the same owners of DC Coast, TenPenh, and now Acadiana. Ceiba has done very well since it’s opening in September 2003.  The restaurant’s menu is full with cuisine based on Latin American influences. The decor was very bright and very colorful almost like a tropical paradise, right here in DC. I think the theme of the “bird and the tree” was very unique. The name Ceiba refers to a tree indigenous to much of the region and purported to have mystical properties.

Photo courtesy of Ceiba.

The restaurant’s decor includes murals throughout the restaurant celebrating the Ceiba tree. Even the furniture is from Brazil — made from wood indigenous to Brazil.

The menu includes dishes from specifically the Yucatan (Vera Cruz and Cancun), Brazil (Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro), Peru, and Cuba. I did not try any of the Ceviche dishes offered (there were more than five offered), however I was able to sample three of their appetizers (one compliments of the chef). The chef brought out the Cuban Paella Crab Fritters. Described on the menu with a fried Lemon and peas served with a light Aioli. I was so pleased that the Chef brought out the Crab Fritter. I was going to order it as one of my choices, but I knew that I was ordering Crab Cakes as my entree. The crab fritter looked better than it tasted…. in my opinion. It reminded me of a hush puppy but just crab tasting. Also, the fritter needed a little more of the aioli. Maybe I just prefer a lot of sauce to dredge each bite, but I think without the aioli, I wouldn’t have been as enthused to eat it.

I also ordered the Albondigas de Chorizo. Described on the menu as Chorizo Meatballs, Shaved Reggianito, Soft Polenta, Tomato Sofrito. So I was asked, “What do you think of the Chorizo?”. I said, “It takes like a meatball.”
Well … I don’t know how else to describe it. It did. The chorizo was very moist and yet did not fall apart when trying to pick it up with your fork. I think the shaved Reggianito on top was the perfect touch. I really liked this dish. I would order it again.
Next, I tried the Beef Empanadas Criollas. Described on the menu as having Green Olives, Raisins, Eggs and Piquillo Pepper Romesco. I didn’t see or taste any of the olive or raisins, but I did have an egg in every one of the Empanadas. I really like this dish and would order it again.
Now that I think about it, the Empanadas seemed similar to Acadiana’s Trio of Pies. (Check the other blog). Mike ordered the Black Bean Braised Pork Shank “Feijoada”. Described on the menu as being served with Rice, Malaguetas, Toasted Farofa. I was able to try this … I have never tasted pork so succulent and with so much flavor. It reminded me of being on my Uncle Loren’s farm in Maryland at a pig roast. This pork was simply amazing. I have never had anything like it. It was served in a very large clay bowl. It felt like we were being served in some old Brazilian woman’s kitchen.Very authentic looking.

I ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Torrejitas. Described on the menu as being served with Peruvian Fried Rice, Red Onion and Asparagus Salad, Rocoto Corn Vinaigrette. I usually order crab cakes when I go out. For some reason, I am just always in the mood for a good crab cake. Saturday night at Restaurant Kolumbia, I ordered the Crab Cake there too. The presentation of the crab cake was good. It looked like a large volcano. The red onion and asparagus covered two crab cakes that sat on top of a bed of peruvian fried rice. I think it looked better than it tasted. The crab cakes were a little crunchy (I found shells), however I was surprised that there was actually “lump” to this crab cake. I can’t tell you how often I order “lump crab cake” and there is no “lump”. It’s all just crab meat that is basically “shredded” no real lump. I think I would have liked the red onion and asparagus salad more, but I think it needed more vinegar. Maybe there was too much vinegar. Maybe just something was missing. Can’t put my finger on it. I should have put some salt and pepper on it, but it didn’t occur to me.

I tried two of their “spirits”- First, I had the PLAYA DEL SOL. An eclectic delight of Cruzan coconut rum, touched with amaretto, pineapple juice, Coco Lopez & grenadine. I also tried the YUCATAN SUNSET. Bacardi Razz rum, Citronge, mango puree & grenadine.  I liked the first one best … probably b/c I love amaretto.

Dining at Ceiba was a very interesting experience. I hope I will make it back again!

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