Y'all, I have no idea how this has happened, but somehow I made it to the age of 30 before I ever tried ceviche. If you don't know what ceviche is, you can read all about it here. Basically, it's fish that is uncooked, but NOT raw. I'm not a fan of raw ANYthing, but this was different. It was divine. And trust me - when it's 90-something degrees and humid in Costa Rica, it is ALL you want for lunch.
We had it the first day for lunch, and it was so good, we tried it from different restaurants every single day of the trip. Not kidding. Ceviche for lunch, 6 days in a row. It was amazing. This is not something I will EVER attempt to make (I've already had food poisoning once in my life, and believe me, once was enough), but I thought it would be fun to give you a little culinary tour of our Costa Rica honeymoon.
Day #1: Habanero's
The first time I ever had ceviche in my life. I was stunned at how good it was. This was my favorite one of the bunch, although maybe that was just because it was my first, but Brian really liked this one, too. In addition to the regular citrus juices, this was marinated with tequila and dill, so it had a nice little kick to it, too. And with the creamy avocado on top, served with the super-crunchy chips? Win.
It was meant to be merely the appetizer to my mahi mahi tacos and Brian's shrimp tacos, but it stole the show and ignited in us (okay, in me) an obsession. And so the quest for Costa Rica's ceviche began...
Day #2: BJ's Restaurant
This ceviche was a lesson in humility and American snobbery on my part. It was another overcast day, so we explored the peninsula a little, driving quite a bit. "Towns" are easy to miss in Costa Rica, because they are often no more than a restaurant or two, a market or grocery store, and maybe a shop. They are incredibly tiny and of course there are no road signs. So we wandered. We thought we might have lunch in one town, but somehow we had missed it. Breakfast was wearing off. I was getting crabby. Out of sheer desperation, we just picked a restaurant.
The "town," such as it was, was almost completely deserted. The restaurant, which was open-air, was definitely deserted, except for us and the couple who ran it, and their two little girls. My inner monologue ran something like this, "Oh my God I can't believe we're eating here there's no one here why are we ordering uncooked fish they probably have no standards and then we're going to get food poisoning and die or worse ruin our honeymoon and why couldn't we have stopped in the other town oh my God I'm going to kill B if we don't die of food poisoning first."
Let me just say - I stand corrected. The couple, who spoke very little English, was incredibly sweet. We may have been the only ones in the restaurant, but that's everyone else's loss. We saw the seafood delivery come up as we were sitting there at our picnic table. Our complimentary clam amuse bouche came right past us into the restaurant, then showed up on our plate.
And the ceviche was fantastic. Absolutely amazing - flavorful and delicious. Instead of tortilla chips, this one was served with hot fried plantains. It was delicious and fortifying. The sautéed vegetables were also amazing, and the melon (cantaloupe) "refresco" I had was out of this world. You may not want to eat at a completely empty restaurant serving uncooked seafood in America, but foreign countries sometimes do certain things a little better than Americans.
Lesson learned, indeed.
Day 3: Restaurante Chicos Playa
This wasn't our favorite ceviche. It was GOOD, but not GREAT. It was ordinary. No tequila-dill sauce, no piping-hot fried plantains. It just didn't have that "stop you in your tracks, this is the best thing I've ever put in my mouth" taste going for it. Maybe it was that this was our third day having ceviche and the novelty had worn off. Maybe it really was sub-par. Whatever the case, it wasn't our favorite. Tasty and edible, but nothing to write home about.
What really impressed us, though, was the "shrimp cocktail." Lots of shrimp, served with hearts of palm and fresh avocado. America, are you listening? Can this be common for our shrimp cocktail, too? I LOVE hearts of palm!
Day 4: Restaurante Playa Carmen
We actually had two different ceviches at Restaurante Playa Carmen. One was a snack after ziplining; the other was lunch the following day. The ceviche was just okay. Again, it was good but not exceptional. The real draw of Restaurante Playa Carmen was their drinks. B's "Palo Verde" featured cachaca, cacique (basically Costa Rican moonshine), cas, passion fruit, mint, and lemon juice, and it was incredible. Strong and refreshing. My sangria was good, but just okay. Not nearly as good as my dear friend Fleming's sangria.
But still - we had to get ceviche. We had to try.
Day 5: Restaurante Caracolas
On Friday of our honeymoon, we had to give up the car. We were only supposed to have it until Thursday, but we extended it a day. And once we gave up the car, we had exactly two options for lunch: eat at the resort (most likely good, but expensive), or walk to the one restaurant within walking distance (or, rather, in walking distance for the two American kids who were NOT used to the oppressive heat and humidity). So for the next two days, lunch was to be at Restaurante Caracolas.
For Friday's lunch, we ordered the regular ceviche. And much like the past two entries, it was, well, just regular. Tasty and filling. Enough energy for us to walk back up the GIANT steep hill that our hotel was on.
Day 6: Restaurante Caracolas, Take 2
Lunch was not EVEN as appealing on day two at Restaurante Caracolas. This had nothing to do with the restaurant's cuisine. Instead, it had everything to do with us knowing exactly how painful walking up the huge hill in the pressing humidity was going to be afterward.
But lunch...well, lunch itself was phenomenal. Lunch was a little different. Because we were so full from the previous day's ceviche and fish tacos, we only ordered the "superceviche" and guacamole this time. The guacamole came out with the chips stuck into it like petals of a flower, and it was perfectly ready-to-eat and delicious.
The superceviche lived up to its name. This was no mediocre ceviche. It was a mixture of shrimp AND fish, and was molded into a tall can-shaped mound and mixed with avocado. I've decided you really need the creaminess of the avocado to cut the acidity of the ceviche. It was served with a HUGE fried plantain "pancake" (that's what it looked like!).
We washed that down with a couple of Imperial beers and toasted our amazing honeymoon and my newfound obsession with the deliciousness that is ceviche. Costa Rica flies under the radar when it comes to cuisine, but if you ever have chance to go, I highly recommend you eat your way through the country and focus on ceviche.
Pura vida, indeed, my friends.