1.14.2008

Ceiba

Executive chef and owner, Jeff Tunks has an impressive list of restaurants in DC, with Ceiba being my favorite of the bunch. His other restaurants include: DC Coast, Acadiana, and Tenphen. I’ve tried all but TenPhen. With the recent explosion of exciting dining options in the area, this restaurant group hasn’t held the same popularity as previous years. Some consider it “old news”. But, Jeff Tunks restaurants were some of the first to give the upscale DC dining scene some character and atmosphere, and rid of the stuffiness that DC is stereotyped to be. Ceiba deserves praise, and I still thoroughly enjoy it.

Ceiba has a modern, Latin American menu. The restaurants d├ęcor adds to the theme. The interior is tropical, sophisticated, and painted with bright, colorful murals throughout. You can see brightly fanned green leaves of the Ceiba tree in the restaurants exterior windows. The ambiance instantly gets you in the mood for an island cocktail, like one of their refreshing mojitos or caipirinhas.

Jeff Tunks created a menu inspired by South and Central America, and a very tasty one at that. They start you out with complimentary tortilla crisps and a tasty dip, which I believe is made of pumpkin. Moving on to the menu appetizers and dinner, we’ve tried the following:

- Crabmeat fritters- these have tasty chunks of crab with a nice spice
- Shredded Duck and Chili Relleno- I was surprised and ecstatic to find goat cheese in this dish. I loved it! Neil, of course hated it, as he can’t stand goat cheese. More for me :)
- Queso Fundido- Everyone seems to love this blend of steak, poblano chilis and oaxacan cheese served in a molcajete. I like the concept, but the grease level was way too much for me. The queso was floating in a pool of oil.
- Brazilian Shellfish Stew- This is excellent, and one of the best items on their menu. It has a thick stew with nice hint of coconut milk with spices, and large chunks of seafood. I had it over a bed of polenta which was a perfect accompaniment to the stew.
- Red Snapper Vera Cruz- This is a very authentic dish. It is serve whole, so don’t order if you can’t handle seeing the head. But, it is so flavorful and has a really nice spice level. If you like things even hotter, they’ll make it spicier for you. The fish is also perfectly crispy.
- Sugar Cane Skewered Shrimp- Served with an avocado mash, crispy onion, and chipotle butter, this is a really yummy dish. But, after the first couple bites, it can get a little old.
- Grilled Free Range Chicken Breast- Don’t order it. It’s kinda bland and with all the other menu options, probably the worst choice.

I’ve only tried one dessert on the menu, because I refuse to try anything else. The warm sugar dusted churros with a hot chocolate sauce and marshmallow is so delicious. The churros are perfectly fried to a crisp, with a soft interior. It’s tasty enough to be eaten alone, but dipped inside a super thick, rich, dark chocolate sauce takes it to another level. The marshmallow that tops the warm sauce is not your typical marshmallow either. Let it slowly melt in and scoop out…yum!

With your check, comes a little bag of caramel popcorn. It’s a fun touch.

Ceiba also has a nice sized bar with ample seating, and a fun menu. This is a great happy-hour spot for refreshing cocktails and a few tasty nibbles. My favorite drink there is the caipirinha, a concoction of cachaca (sugar cane liquor), muddled lime, and more sugar. It takes me right back to Costa Rica, where the caipirinha was a daily part of my diet. There’s a lot more latin libations to choose from. Bar nibbles are substantial too, consisting of empanadas, crab/shrimp nachos, and fish tacos just to name a few.

Dinner prices are indicative of an upscale restaurant. The bar menu is pretty reasonable, so give that area a try!

Ceiba
701 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
202.393.3983

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