Ceiba: Flavor-packed Latina American cuisine

It’s no secret, we love Passion Food Restaurant Group, and their Latin American cuisine restaurant Ceiba is no exception. Their unique take on non-traditional cuisine is a much welcome departure from the plethora of steak houses and sandwich options (some very delicious albeit) typically found in downtown DC.

To start, the Chef brought out an amuse bouche that was amazing. A fried oyster over a bed of sauteed spinach topped with, I assume, cojita cheese. The oyster was crispy, the sauteed spinach with a few other vegetables was a nice balance. Great way to start the meal.

Next we ordered a charred octopus appetizer. I always order octopus whenever I see it on the menu (my favorite is the whole baby grilled octopus at Tosca downtown FYI), and this did not disappoint. Wood grilled octopus with a gazpacho vinaigrette, queso fresco and red onions, cucumber, tomato and croutons. The citrus in the gazpacho balanced the dish nicely, the octopus was perfectly cooked, and the croutons added a nice textural contrast.

The lunch special was head on shrimp, housemade chorizo, and a fried egg with olives, peanuts, and some watercress. The shrimp were perfect and of course, sucking the tamale out of the heads was a treat. My only complaint was the olives and peanuts weren’t really needed. The olives made the bites a bit too salty, and the peanuts, for crunch and texture contrast I assume could have been replaced with pickled radishes, or even tortilla strips.

The hamburger option provides a welcome twist from the traditional downtown DC staples. The patty is chorizo and beef, topped with cabrales blue cheese, jalapeño jam, caramelized red onion, and served with hand-cut fries. Get it with bacon and a fried egg like we did! Tender, cooked well, balanced flavors, certainly a great burger with a Latin flare.

Of course any Latin inspired restaurant worth their salt should produce an amazing Cuban sandwich. Ceiba’s option is traditional; roasted pork, ham, gruyere cheese, and pickles served with fried platain chips. The Cuban was good, the pork was tender, however I think the most common complaint with the Cuban sandwich sadly holds true here – the bread wasn’t toasted enough and thus the cheese wasn’t melted. Personally, I prefer a foil wrapped brick on a hot flat top pressing the sandwich flat, searing the bread to a crusty golden perfection and melting the cheese to a hot, lava-like consistency. Otherwise a fanstastic sandwich that could have used a tad more TLC.

If you’re looking for a good lunch alternative from the downtown DC staples, we recommend Ceiba. Overall a flavor packed meal, lots of options, and fantastic service.

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