Who would have thought that ceviche, the Central and South American dish of raw fish briefly marinated in citrus juice, would become such a hip thing here in the land of meat and potatoes? Hip enough, in fact, to have a new restaurant, C’Viche Tequila Bar, devoted to it in the burgeoning hipster dining district of Lower Greenville Avenue?
Ceviche is actually pretty easy to like, especially as the weather heats up, and especially as it’s practiced at C’Viche. This ultracasual spot was opened three months ago by Randall Warder, the veteran of the Mansion on Turtle Creek whose Clark Food and Wine Co. is right next door. It’s a small space — more of a storefront, really — but it’s bright and beachy, with a counter and bar and a scattering of high-top tables with stools. You place your order at the counter and move to one of those high-tops, or, better yet, to one of the picnic tables on the patio where you can watch the passing parade of folks with spade beards, sleeve tattoos and porkpie hats.
You get to mix and match a choice of diced seafood — scallops, tuna, shrimp or the fish of the day — with a marinade: Baja, Peruvian, Island or Asian. (You can also choose to have your fish as “crudo,” sliced sashimi-style.) On one visit, our choice was the daily fish, halibut, Peruvian style. The quiveringly fresh white chunks of fish are cut to order and get the merest hint of “cooking” from their brief bath in lime juice. They come prettily tossed on a glass plate with thin slices of red onion, corn, little triangles of cooked carrot, cilantro and a spray of microgreens. It’s lovely, refreshing and bracing. So is the tuna Baja style, also lime-marinated but dressed with diced tomato, avocado and onion, and spiked with jalapeño.
And the Island style, which we tried with shrimp, gets a distinctively tropical note from its hint of orange juice and zest, coconut water and pineapple. Fruit and fish is a combo that usually raises my hackles, but this matchup works.
The menu also lists a few “specialties,” essentially ceviches whose combinations have been decided for you. The spicy shrimp aguachile is startlingly good, the shrimp energized by jalapeño and cooled by lime, brightened and slightly sweetened by a sprinkling of pomegranate arils. Another specialty, the tuna crudo “poke style” (as in Hawaiian, not as in finger-in-your-eye), is less successful: The slices of tuna are fine and fresh beneath finely julienned radish and sliced green onion, but the tamari ginger dressing is cloyingly sweet.
If all this strikes you as far too healthy, there are alternatives like the crunchy avocado fries, the battered and deep-fried brisket bullets — jalapeños stuffed with beef and queso — and the paper bags of warm house-fried tortilla chips. But I’d devote the calories to one of the terrific tropical cocktails, like a mojito or a dark and stormy, or to one of the 30 tequilas.
The brief menu also includes a smattering of things like tacos and quesadillas, presumably on the theory that not everybody is ready for nearly raw shrimp and halibut. But really, we’re here for the fish.
C'Viche Tequila Bar (3 stars)
Price: $$ (appetizers $3.75 to $6; tacos and quesadillas $3.25 to $4.50; ceviches $12 to $16)
Service: You order at the counter (there's table service on the patio) from a friendly, easygoing cashier or bartender. The fish is cut to order, so don't expect fast-food speed.
Ambience: A small, ultracasual storefront with a beachy, airy vibe. The patio's a particularly pleasant spot to watch the passing pedestrian parade.
Noise level: Fairly subdued
Location: 1922 Greenville Ave., Dallas; 214-238-3509; cvicheandtequila.com
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Reservations: Not accepted
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar, including 30 tequilas, 14 beers, house tropical cocktails and red and white sangria
5 stars: Extraordinary
4 stars: Excellent
3 stars: Very good
2 stars: Good
1 star: Fair
No stars: Poor