While Orlando’s culinary scene is pulsating with organically diverse offerings set in outdoor digital and neon lights over the bumper-to-bumper theme park districts, it doesn’t always have to feel that way. There is still one place you can enjoy a quiet night surrounded by complete ambience and modern dining in a world that feels so far away, you’ll forget that you’re peering out the windows of Church Street Station in historic Downtown Orlando. Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant might literally be in the heart of the world’s entertainment district, but it feels more like a Spanish excursion and old-world flair than you’ve ever experienced before in the City Beautiful.
Delicate and raw seafood are heavily popular in culinary circles from Lisbon to Lima, but a real ceviche experience offers an orgasmic fusion of flavors that is so undeniably zesty, it’s no wonder that you would need hot Latin blood in order to truly love and appreciate it for what it is. For the rest of us though, it’s an experience as well as an education, as the Latin dish has only caught on in the United States for a few short years now. In fact, it’s the new joie de vivre.
You would think that with Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant’s Latin roots, it would come from the nearby 305, but it actually hails much closer from Tampa and St. Petersburg, an area obviously spoiled in the seafood department. Caledon Concepts President Lee Karlins along with Director of Development Dave Madera and newly-appointed Corporate Executive Chef Matthew Rainey are bringing their boutique restaurant concept style and vision to Orlando, complete with classic dishes with contemporary twists. Mix in space that includes rustic décor and high-ceiling walls along with century-old furniture pieces, it’s no wonder that Orlando’s sexy is coming back.
“Not too fussy and not too formal, it’s such an Avant-garde culinary experience that you’ll walk away from an eight-course meal wondering if you’ll feel this excited about seafood ever again.”
Like most tapas restaurants, the menu is extensive, but according to Chef Rainey, the team behind the kitchen is now focusing on quality rather than quantity and that’s why they’ve reduced their offerings from over 80 items to a mere 50. Our dining experience was all but a robust one, with the restaurant so quiet, you can hear the majority of Orlando’s population heading west on the I-4 corridor to escape the oncoming wrath that was to be Hurricane Matthew on Central Florida (luckily the city and surrounding area escaped with minimal to no damage). But maybe that’s a good thing, as it did give Chef Rainey an opportunity to work on that quality over quantity with the restaurant’s latest offerings. Plus, an oncoming storm wasn’t going to deter us from the exhilarating onslaught of flavors that was ahead.
The new menu offers Ceviche atun, complete with ahi tuna, avocado, cilantro, rocoto and roasted corn nuts (topped with a good science of marinades), to the sautéed shrimps that is Gambas al Ajillo (with just the right texture and moisture) to the eclectic Pulpo a la Gallega – or simply grilled octopus – and sautéed Branzino. Top it off with one of their signature cocktails, which includes the Burro, which is a smooth combination of Brugal Anejo rum, guava, and lime for a completely satisfying experience.
With a supper-club vibe, Ceviche’s location on Church Street is part of the area’s revitalized campaign to bring back locals with culinary palates so meticulous, you would think you were dining in one of the country’s most competitive metropolitan areas. Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant is bringing to Orlando what it’s long been missing, and that’s an actual Mediterranean and if you will, old-world experience, without the manufactured wonder and entertainment that the city is well known for. You don’t have to close your eyes to feel like you’re dining off the coast of Spain, because with shrimps, scallops and squid so enticing, you’re already there. Not too fussy and not too formal, it’s such an Avant-garde culinary experience that you’ll walk away from an eight-course meal wondering if you’ll feel this excited about seafood ever again.
With 22,000 square feet at its disposal, Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant comes complete with several renovated banquet halls upstairs that are perfect for private events, engagement parties, weddings and receptions. The striking and versatile event space is perhaps the only place in Orlando that gives you an excuse to wear your grandmother’s flamenco dress and dancing shoes while overlooking Orlando’s captivating skyline. With nightly jazz and Latin pop music shows, you don’t need a reason to step out and step into Orlando’s only venue that offers live flamenco performances worth seeing. Can’t dance? Don’t worry. The city is still learning, too.
Located on West Church Street and only minutes from Amway Center and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant is open Monday through Wednesday from 5pm to 10pm, Thursday through Saturday from 5pm to 1am, and is closed on Sundays. For reservations, contact 321-281-8140.
Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant
125 W Church St, Orlando, FL 32801
For reservations, contact (321) 281-8140.