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"Without the freedom to criticize, there is no worthy praise." Beaumarchais
La Cofradia Ceviche Bar
Coral Gables
**

Address:160 Andalusia Ave, Coral Gables,
Phone: (305) 914-1300
Hours: Lunch, Tues - Fri.; Dinner Tues - Sat, Happy Hour: Tuesday – Friday from 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., closed Mondays-Sundays
Liquor: Full bar and specialty cocktails
Wines: A good list of affordable wines
Prices: $14 lunch special; Bar tapas: $5; Ceviches $10-$16; entrees $17-$26; desserts $9
Ambiance: Relaxed Bistro chic, live music
Service: Professional
Credit cards: All major




La Cofradia Ceviche Bar
Coral Gables
**


The kind of chic but not intimidating neighborhood bistro
that inspires friends to get together over terrific ceviches and tiraditos,
great pisco sours and good wines, and draws serious eaters
in search of well-made Peruvian food.

By Simone Zarmati Diament

After the high-end Peruvian Restaurant La Cofradia closed in early 2009 until mid-year, it was very recently reclaimed as La Cofradia Ceviche Bar.

The location, the owners and the chef/owner Jean Paul Desmaison are the same, but now the ambiance spells relaxed. A guitarist strums lively tunes under a blackboard with the tapas of the day chalked in. Casually chic patrons are lulling at the bar sipping pisco sours or some other specialty cocktails while nibbling on grilled baby octopus and tiraditos.

The dining room, separated from the bar area by a wine rack is warmer than before and more family style-like; the frescoed ceiling still sports a huge nude by Ingres, but the white tablecloths have been replaced by straw mats and candlelight, the waiters are casually dressed and there are long wooden tables with animated groups of friends sharing each other’s orders. In step with the times, La Cofradia has scaled down. Everything except the food.

Chef Desmaison who is from Lima, the gastronomic capital of the Americas now offers Peruvian food – by definition a fusion-type of culinary cultures - in its simplest and best version.

Ceviches and Tiraditos

Ceviches must be made on the spot and the menu offers eight different choices, all delicious. The fish or seafood is briefly “cooked” in leche de tigre: salt, lime juice and peppers, with each ceviche seasoned differently.

The trio of ceviches ($16) is a good way to start since it provides a sample of ceviches: Traditional – with red onions, cilantro and the sweet, large and creamy Peruvian corn kernels, Oriental – with ponzu soy sauce and ginger, and Aji Amarillo – a medley of fresh fish and scallops with a side of sweet yam to smooth the tart lime juice and the lively yellow pepper .

You can make a meal out of the ceviches and tiraditos.

The tuna tiradito ($13) mixes the best of both Peruvian and Asian worlds; slices of fresh belly tuna “cooked” ceviche-style in salt and lime juice, acquire a terrific umami depth with the Asian ponzu soy sauce and a topping of well-seasoned wakame (seaweed) sprinkled with black sesame seeds.

This is something I can definitely consider being addicted to.

Appetizers

In between ceviches we ordered an appetizer-size serving of the tapa of the day: a warm grilled baby squid. A gem of a dish, tender and delicious – it was cooked and then cooked again in white wine before being grilled - its little tentacles were spread on the plate with abandon. It was topped with a Provençale sauce of tomatoes and onions, and served with two toasts to sop the sauce which it could have done without.

At La Cofradia, the shrimp and avocado causa - the typical and scrumptious Peruvian concoction of mashed potatoes with oil, lime juice, aji amarillo or yellow peppers paste - was a bland layered terrine of mashed potatoes and avocado with two jumbo shrimp on the side drizzled with thousand island dressing.

But the seared scallop salad was refreshing and surprising with a great range of tastes and textures: two very fresh and sweet seared scallops over a medley of diced white cheese (queso del país), tomatoes, Peruvian corn, fresh lima bean and black mint seasoned with a good olive oil and a good dose of lime juice.

The list of appetizers includes fresh mozzarella salad ($12) with baby spinach, Portobello mushrooms and roasted peppers; Slow braised pork and grapes ($12); goat cheese and yucca croquettes with huancaína sauce ($10).

The menu continues with a list of saltados, a choice of beef tenderloin, shrimp, seafood or chicken sautéed with onions, tomatoes, red wine vinegar and soy sauce and served with a side such as tacu tacu – a Chinese-like traditional Peruvian side of sautéed beans and rice with onions, garlic and hot peppers, risotto, pasta or veggies.

Entrees

They are abundant, so plan to share if you’ve already had ceviches and appetizers.

Chupe de Camarones ($17) is a very satisfying and rich country-style fish soup filled with shrimp, langoustine, fish and seafood, with melting dices of white cheese, crunchy Peruvian corn, creamy lima beans and soft potatoes among other veggies. That and a serving of warm bread is heaven!

Shrimp Risotto ($24) is also served in a large bowl. It is a butternut squash risotto redolent with melting white cheese, flavored with parmesan and with shrimp cooked in shellfish stock and white wine.

There’s one more Peruvian-style fish: salmon a la Chorrillana ($20) with onions and tomato sauce and all the other dishes belong to an international menu such as steamed black grouper ($24); seared Ahi tuna (24); tortelloni ($18) with huancaina sauce’ braised short ribs; lamb chops and New York strip with peppercorn sauce and potato gratin ($25 and $26 respectively).

Desserts

The list (all desserts are $9 except sorberts $5 and alfajores de dulce de leche $5) swings between Peruvian classics like suspiro de limeña: dulce de leche topped with meringue in a martini glass; cherimoya panna cotta and lucuma and chocolate mousse torte with an almond meringue crust and dark ganache, and crowd-pleasing crème brûlée and molten chocolate cake.

La Cofradia Ceviche Bar is now the kind of chic but not intimidating neighborhood bistro that inspires friends to get together over terrific ceviches and tiraditos, great pisco sours, and is a draw for serious eaters in search of well-made ethnic Peruvian food.

To submit information and tips for this column, please e-mail to: editor@southfloridagourmet.com
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