Chances are if you’ve been out for seafood recently, you’ve noticed a lot more raw fish dishes on menus across the city.
Ceviches and crudos, flavorful raw fish medleys from Latin America and Italy respectively, are having a moment in NYC eateries, giving many restaurants serving underwhelming sushi and sashimi a run for their money.
Market research group Datassential MenuTrends reports that ceviches and crudos are appearing more and more on restaurant menus in the northeast — with New York representing the largest share of restaurants in that region. Ceviche is up 26% from 2009 and crudo by 150% in the same time. What gives?
For Peter Gevrekis, operating partner at Desnuda, an East Village cevicheria that recently opened a second location in South Williamsburg, it’s a question of exposure. With demand rising among consumers, chefs are taking note and obliging restaurant goers. But that hasn’t always been the case.
“Japanese had been done for so many years, and nobody was doing something like this,” he said. “It took about a year and a half before we got really busy.”
Eventually business picked up, and now hungry New Yorkers are dropping in to the South 1st Street location for coconut milk-marinated lobster ceviche, and yellow fin tuna tiradito (like Peruvian crudo) with a shishito yuzu truffle glaze.
“You can’t go wrong with it,” said Gevrekis.
Originally from Mexico City, Julian Medina, chef and co-owner of Yerba Buena, takes inspiration from all over Latin America at his restaurant.
He estimates a 30% increase in his ceviche trade since the restaurant’s opening in 2009.
“A lot of people like it because it’s light and refreshing and packed with flavor,” he said of the combination of chopped raw fish “cooked” in a bath of citrus juice, spices and herbs.
At Esca, chef and co-owner Dave Pasternack was inspired to put crudo on the menu after a trip to Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast.
“Other than Japanese restaurants, there was really nobody doing anything like that in America,” he said.
So he took a chance, and years later, crudo is emblematic of Esca’s uncomplicated and refined fare, with dishes like Alfonsino Snapper dressed with Meyer lemon-pressed olive oil. When asked why crudo and ceviche have experienced such popularity in the last few years — and more recently at new hot spots like ZZ’s Clam Bar — Pasternack quipped, “I try to set the trends, not follow them.” And with nearly 15 years at Esca under his belt, it seems good taste is always on trend.