Two years into its Lake Park adventure, Ceviche Arigato is no more pizzazz-y than when it first opened in a quiet, dim plaza. It’s still difficult to spot from busy Northlake Boulevard. One must drive well into the usually empty parking lot and reach the door to sense its presence.
This is the way of hidden gems. Once inside, you will be welcomed warmly with a dish of pan-toasted Peruvian corn. You realize you’ve entered another world, one that spins apart from the drive-through spots clustered nearby. White linens dress the tables inside a space that’s smartly put together. And once you are served your first dish, hopefully something kicky and nicely acidic, you’ll note the art and décor don’t stop at the restaurant’s interiors. The plates are stunning.
You’ll find that kicky, acidic bite in a simple Ceviche de Pescado (fish ceviche, $15), one made of meaty grouper, lime and Peruvian chile heat. If you’re craving a good ceviche, there’s no reason to roam further into the menu – this one hits the spot. Of course, true to its first name, Ceviche Arigato offers an eclectic range that includes 10 different ceviches, from shrimp to mixed seafood to a couple that are deepened by a hit of soy sauce. They range from $15 to $19 for generous portions. In these starter dishes, expect plenty of brightness from the limes, plenty of sweet onions, plump bites of Peruvian corn kernels, spicy heat from either rocoto or panca chiles or Peruvian yellow peppers, plus rich bites of steamed sweet potato to balance out the heat.
There’s more than ceviche to whet your palate here. One can make a meal of the restaurant’s other Peruvian starters as well as its sushi and sashimi offerings (a nod to the strong Asian influences found in Peruvian cuisine).
One of my favorite starters also is one of the loveliest: Peruvian “Causa” ($9 with chicken, $13 with shrimp, $13 with octopus). This classic dish is a kind of potato salad, but far more stylish. Imagine a chilled drum of mashed Peruvian potatoes and a touch of mayo, layered with other fillings (such as avocado, shredded chicken salad, shrimp) and topped with a tangy yellow pepper sauce. It’s dreamy.
The menu’s “tapas” section includes another chilled Peruvian potato favorite, Papa a la Huancaina ($7), potato chunks topped with a rich, creamy sauce that also includes yellow peppers. Fried yuca is offered with that same sauce and called “Yucainas” ($7), and there are other items, like crispy calamari, chilled Japanese octopus and Teriyaki ribs.
For an extra layer of Peruvian authenticity, pair your meal with a Cusqueña lager.
There’s more entrée than starter potential in the soup menu. The soups here are large and filling, perfect for pairing with another starter or enjoyed on their own. I’m partial to the Chupe de Camarones ($13), a lightly creamy shrimp and rice soup that’s dotted with squares of firm white cheese.
As for entrées, order a Parrilla de Mariscos (grilled mixed seafood, $19) and behold the dramatic arrangement of succulent, grilled shrimp, fish chunks, lobster, mussels and golden potatoes.
Try the Arrizotado de Lomo Saltado (Peruvian-style risotto with soy-marinated and stir-fried steak strips, $19) and indulge in creamy, cheesy risotto mound that helps absorb the juices of the steak-pepper-onion stir-fry.
Or if you’re craving fried rice as I was on a recent night, try the Chaufa de Camaron (shrimp fried rice, $18), a knockout rendition that’s layered in flavor. The rice is also offered with chicken, beef, veggies or seafood (from $13 to $18).
Another go-to favorite is the Aji de Gallina ($12), that shredded stewed chicken that’s stirred with a yellow pepper and cheese sauce. There’s not much contrast on the plate, but it is a great choice when you are craving comfort cuisine.
Entrée portions are neither too large nor too small. They are more than satisfying. So you may want to save room for a Peruvian dessert. If you’re looking to share, consider the Picarones ($6), small, crispy Peruvian-style doughnuts.
This is delicious, authentic Peruvian fare, more like the food one expects to find in Miami’s more predominantly Latin American dining districts. The restaurant does have an older sibling eatery – not in Miami, but in Weston.
The Lake Park location plays older and more experienced than its years. The cooking is spot-on; the service is in the hands of experienced staff. These factors make a difference in giving a restaurant, particularly one operating in a challenging location, a shot at success.
ADDRESS: 1447 10th St., Lake Park
PRICE RANGE: Moderate
NOISE LEVEL: Intimate feel; conversation is possible.
FULL BAR: Yes, a full bar; separate bar area.
HOURS: Open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.
CREDIT CARDS: Major cards accepted
RESERVATIONS: Walk-ins welcome.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
WHAT THE GRADES MEAN:
A — Excellent
B — Good
C — Average
D — Poor
F — Don’t bother