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Ceiba, Chef Matthew Britt's Pan-Latino on 14th and G Street Downtown - Closed Sep 27, 2014


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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

I had my choice of spending my dollars anywhere tonight, and I spent them at Ceiba. James and Christopher behind the bar are welcoming to groups or solo diners, having come from DC Coast, and Ten Penh, respectively.

The 97 Pesquera Ribera del Duero Reserva is a good deal despite its $49 pricetag. If you have a group of four people, it's ideal and better than anything on the by-the-glass list. Plus, it went quite well with the foie gras.

The Foie Gras sitting atop a corn cake (a blend of whole-kernel corn and cornmeal) was a difficult choice with the red wine, considering it was also served with caramelized red onions in a sugar-cane balsamic reduction. But it worked, and it worked quite well, as the onions and vinegar were a backdrop to the rest of the dish. (Who on earth said Ceiba wasn't fine dining? Not me!) At $15, you might not think to order this as an app, but I think you should.

Queso Fundido is a big ol' lava-stone pot served with volcanic, melted Oaxaca cheese, burbling with skirt steak, poblano chili and corn-meal tortillas with which to make fajita-like scarfers. I generally prefer flour tortillas, but not in this case as the strength of the dish needed the grainy corn bouquet.

Surely, this is not enough for one person, so a 1/2-bottle of Trimbach Riesling (2001) appeared on the table, accompanied by some more food.

The Jamaican "stamp and go" crab fritters are named for what must be "í  emporter" in Jamaican: you stamp up to the counter, and get it to go. They're served with a mango/lime crème fraiche for a dipping sauce that is more mango than anything. In Washington DC, any sauce this color generally has curry in it (which is also heavily used in Jamaica, hint hint), but this tended towards a predominance of mango which was a tad too much. These fritters were really good, and I think that, yes, I ordered in the correct sequence: foie gras, queso fundido, crab fritters.

The riff-raff in the DC culinary world told me once, in a back-room sort of fashion, that "Chris Clime, the chef at Ceiba, is a big, bad guy, and he'll snap you in half like you were a twig."

"Is he Wabeck-big?", I asked.

"He is to Wabeck, what Wabeck is to you," was the reply.

My nuts instantly and without hesitation shriveled to the size of small raisins, and I responded in a muted voice ... "oh."

Cheers,
Rocks.

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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

I had a good meal at Ceiba tonight.

The freebies are more than worthy. The little wedge-basket-thing of tortillas with some sort of cumin powder, and the accompanying dip with pumpkinseed (?) et al were complex, interesting and very, very good. A sampler of ceviche ($15) is a fine introduction to these original renditions and would be appropriate for a group of 2-3 people; solo diners would be better off choosing the one that sounds best to them on the menu (around $9), or possibly trying the swordfish carpaccio in its stead. Duck empanadas were tasty and well-priced - another perfect group nibbler. And then there was the red snapper Vera Cruz which was a whole fish that was beautifully cooked and presented. The sauce was bland, yes, but so what - how many whole red snappers do you see at $23? At this price, it bordered on being charity as I'd normally expect this dish to push $30 in a place such as this.

The wine list is young but varied and strong, with many interesting wines to be found at under $40 if you know how to swim.

Ceiba is a slick, polished restaurant with a prime location. The atmosphere is welcoming and the large space is divided up so that it feels surprisingly intimate. Ceiba compares with Zaytinya more than some people might care to admit in that it's big volume, it's an impressive space, it fills a certain price point, and it's "ethnic." People looking for a tasty, satisfying meal rather than fine dining will enjoy Ceiba - it's fun, and it has delicious food. The Dumbing Up Of America? Perhaps, in that it's a big step up from what we could have expected ten years ago (think: Rio Grande, Paolo's, Cactus Cantina) or twenty years ago (AV, Marrakesh). Ceiba also makes me think of how cutting edge Red Sage was within this genre.

If I had a group of people looking for a fun, lively place to dine, I would take them to Ceiba without hesitation - it's perfect for this, and I would happily return.

Looking for a rave review? You won't find it from me. But I will say that I don't know of any other restaurant in Washington that's any better than this for what it is. I'd like to see others here try Ceiba on an uncrowded midweek evening, and post their thoughts and opinions here.

An interesting academic exercise would be comparing one of the duck empanadas next to a saltena ordered from El Pike restaurant in Falls Church.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Detested Ceiba- unfortunately I during restaurant week b/c I am a poor law student. As a floridian I can say that the conch chowder was an utter disgrace. But the bad part of the meal was the service, I hate being treated like the server is doing us a favor, we were absolutely treated like second-class citizens, even though we're very polite. Overall, not worth the price evebn during restaurant week.

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I organized a modest post-graduation dinner for 14 last Saturday at Ceiba. We occupied two tables, and having misjudged the duration of G'Town's graduation, most of the party arrived at 8 for a 9:30 reservation ;) .

No problem. Our diverse group ranging from 12 years old to 60 got seated fairly soon after arrival. Service was courteous, efficient and attentive.

I must say that having eaten at all of the Tunk organization's places, that seafood is generally their strong point, with pork dishes being next. I ordered a steak -- ribeye on the bone with a kind of chimichura like crust -- asked for it very rare and it came closer to medium rare. It was ok but nothing to write home about. (Note to self: make a reservation for Ray's soonest.) Started with the ceviche sampler which was quite good, while others had fois gras which I heard was also decent. Other entrees reported on were the Boulliabase with a Cuban twist -- excellent and several of the fish dishes.

My dessert was liquid, a couple of anejo tequillas and a shot of expresso. :lol:

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I ordered a steak -- ribeye on the bone with a kind of chimichura like crust -- asked for it very rare and it came closer to medium rare. It was ok but nothing to write home about. (Note to self: make a reservation for Ray's soonest.)

That's the only dish I've had there that I didn't think was very good. A little too much fat on the steak and not enough chimichurri to give off much flavor.

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That's the only dish I've had there that I didn't think was very good.  A little too much fat on the steak and not enough chimichurri to give off much flavor.

I'm spoiled when it comes to steaks. I foreswear ordering a steak at any place other than Ray's the Steaks or some other place that has been sanctioned by Michael Landrum (Corduroy). Anything else is bound to be a disappoinment.

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I stopped in at Ceiba's bar last night and sampled a number of appetizers. The grilled octopus salad was extraordinary. The octopus was by far the most tender I've ever had and the gazpacho vinaigrette was delicious. I need to figure out how to make a similar vinaigrette at home. The grouper ceviche was simple and satisfying with Manzanilla olives and radish. Their take on nachos with crab and rock shrimp made me feel guilty for ordering so much gooey melted cheese, but I got over that quickly as I scarfed them down.

My only complaint is the design of the bar itself. Either the bar is too high, or the seats are too short. If you're under 5' 4'' or so, I'd imagine the bartender would only see you from the neck up. Also, there isn't enough "overhang" at the bar. In order to position yourself close to your plate, you either turn your legs sideways or do a split. Sorry to nitpick, but that drives me nuts. :lol:

I'll be back for a full dinner sometime soon.

Edited to add: Oh, yeah, they have Pyrat XO rum which makes for a fine dessert. ;)

Edited by Al Dente
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Last month jenrus and I ate at Pasion! in Philadelphia and had a pretty good meal. Nothing that really knocked me over. I said at the time:

We are lucky here in DC. Pasion may get more press, but I'd put Ceiba up against it any day.

So we wanted to get back to Ceiba as quickly as we could. Not only to compare, but to have a repeat of some of the great meals we've had in the past. We decided to have a few drinks and order a bunch of appetizers this time - ceviche sampler, crab fritters, duck empanadas, queso fundido and a special crawfish empanada.

As always, the ceviches were good, but in the last month I've had ceviche samplers at not only Pasion (where the chef's cookbook is titled "Chviche!") but also at Topolobampo in Chicago. This version didn't quite measure up, but was still quite good.

Latin/Carribean food has always been one of my favorties because of the flavors. Not necessarily spicy in the traditional, Tex-Mex sense. But like good Thai food, it often has a certain zing, from a fruitiness or a taste of vinegar or a subtle chili flavor. The last word I think of when I thing of Latin/Carribean food is "bland", but that is the word that echoed in my head on drive home. The rest of the dishes we ate left me wanting. Even the normally reliably firey sauces were a little tame.

This wasn't Cebia's day. Maybe next time.
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My husband & I ate at Ceiba for my birthday last month; we had a really good time but I think that had more to do with the atmosphere & company than anything outstanding on our plates. It was pretty good, but definitely didn't measure up to the gastronomic delight we experienced at Firefly for his birthday.

The main impression I took away about the food was that they give you WAY TOO MUCH of it! We each got our own appetizer (duck empanadas & crab fritters) and neither of us finished due to fears about filling up early. I was also a little put off by having them presented on the plate on top of a folded dinner napkin -- interesting visual before you start eating, but when you're done you have this plate with a wadded napkin covered in crumbs & fritter/empanada grease :P Entrees also huge, but I did enjoy mine. (what was it? can't remember) Husband got the giant-bowl-o-pork which he worked diligently at but was unable to finish.

Very pleasant evening but I'm not dying to go back anytime in the ultra-near future.

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Had lunch yesterday at Ceiba for RW. Had the option of any soup or salad or a shrimp cocktail for starters; any entree on the menu and a choice of chocolate cake, flan or a key lime panna cotta for desert.

I had an excellent Golden Tomato Gazpacho with Peekytoe Crab Ceviche and a Vine-Ripe Tomato Sorbet. For my entree I choose the Grilled Barbeque Salmon

Manchego Cheese, Mexican "Caesar Salad" Taco. The salmon was good but nothing remarkable. The ceasar salad taco was an interesting accompaniment; it was very flavorful but difficult to eat without making a mess. I panna cotta was nice in that it was not so sweet and you could really taste the flavors of the key lime.

Overall it was a very positive experience highlighted by the many options that were available to choose from. My one RW gripe is that too many restaurants limit the selections to 2-3 choices per course. Today I am off to Vidalia.

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Had lunch yesterday at Ceiba for RW. Had the option of any soup or salad or a shrimp cocktail for starters; any entree on the menu and a choice of chocolate cake, flan or a key lime panna cotta for desert.
... panna cotta was nice in that it was not so sweet and you could really taste the flavors of the key lime.
Overall it was a very positive experience highlighted by the many options that were available to choose from.

I was at Ceiba last night for dinner and we had a very positive experience too. All four of us found our soups, salads, and ceviche to be great and the salmon, grouper special were very yummy. My wife's whole red snapper was a sight and equally tasty. Our ethusiasm was only dulled by lackluster desserts. We got two key lime panna cottas and two chocolate cuban coffee cakes and none were good. We couldn't figure out if it was intentional or not that the cake had a "burnt" flavor - something that isn't usually a good sign, especially with a dessert.
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Had lunch yesterday at Ceiba for RW. Had the option of any soup or salad or a shrimp cocktail for starters; any entree on the menu and a choice of chocolate cake, flan or a key lime panna cotta for desert.

I had an excellent Golden Tomato Gazpacho with Peekytoe Crab Ceviche and a Vine-Ripe Tomato Sorbet. For my entree I choose the Grilled Barbeque Salmon

Manchego Cheese, Mexican "Caesar Salad" Taco. The salmon was good but nothing remarkable.  The ceasar salad taco was an interesting accompaniment; it was very flavorful but difficult to eat without making a mess.  I panna cotta was nice in that it was not so sweet and you could really taste the flavors of the key lime. 

Overall it was a very positive experience highlighted by the many options that were available to choose from. My one RW gripe is that too many restaurants limit the selections to 2-3 choices per course.  Today I am off to Vidalia.

That golden tomato gazpacho is delicious, no? I love the presentation, the crab is delicious and the tomato sorbet - amazing touch!

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Mrs. Banco and I had dinner at Ceiba for the first time last night. The space and the mood of the restaurant appealed to both of us, and already at 6:30 it was fairly full.

The prelude of delicious tortilla-like wafers with a dipping sauce of (I think) pumpkin seeds and cumin proved addictive. I began with two appetizers. The yellowfin tuna ceviche was flavored with lime and cashews, which gave it a somewhat Thai-like flavor. It was excellent. The fish was immaculately fresh, and the dish was served beautifully over ice. Next came an appetizer special, a rockfish bisque. It was creamy and flavorful, but insufficiently hot. Meanwhile, my wife had a yellow-tomato gazpacho that was the best I had ever tasted: bursting with the sweetness and tang of ripe tomatoes and garnished with a succulent crab ceviche and a dollop of tomato sorbet. As my entree I chose the tilapia special, crusted in pumpkin seed and coconut, served over cilantro-flavored rice and with a sauce containing green beans, artichoke hearts, and corn. The fish was carefully cooked, with a crunchy and flavorful crust, but this dish proved heavy going: the many flavors and textures, though tasty and appealing individually, competed for attention on the plate and made it overall a bit of a muddle, a problem exacerbated by the huge portion size. This dish could use some streamlining.

By contrast, the braised pork shank with black beans and rice had a deep and complex flavor. It was meltingly tender and had fully absorbed the flavors of its Brazilian braise. No streamlining needed there. Desserts were pretty and carefully presented; the Key-lime custard was refreshing. But after that huge tilapia dish I was not in a good position to appreciate them.

Service was thoughtful and polite, despite the place being full (and it's a big place). I'll definitely return to Ceiba, but next time I think I'd just do a few apps at the bar.

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Service was thoughtful and polite, despite the place being full (and it's a big place). I'll definitely return to Ceiba, but next time I think I'd just do a few apps at the bar.

When you return try the "Nirvana Nachos" -- rock shrimp. Highly addictive and goes great with one of the Spanish Whites they have on the wine list.

Edited by FunnyJohn
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When you return try the "Nirvana Nachos" -- rock shrimp.  Highly addictive and goes great with one of the Spanish Whites they have on the wine list.

Thanks for the tip, and for reminding me about something I left out of my remarks: Ceiba's wine list is an interesting read, with a broad selection in terms of both geography and varietal. We had a Torres Esmeralda, which paired beautifully with the ceviche and other fish dishes. Mark-up is also fair; the Esmeralda was $36.

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Lunch at Ceiba yesterday was nice. I found the table service to be very attentive and professional. Everyone at our table seemed to enjoy the meal. I started with Shredded Duck Confit Empanadas. (raisins, olices, sour orange huacatay mojo). How can I turn down anything with mojo? This was a sizeable starter. 5 empanadas about the size of a steamed dumpling from the takeout Chinese joint. Crispy dough, tasty inside, perhaps a touch dry, but not a problem.

Followed it with Bolivian Pork Estofado, which was a stew of braised pork, yucca, plantains and poblano corn bread. I think the pork could have been a bit more tender. I like how the cornbread would absorb much of the liquid so it ate more like a meal rather than a soup. Slightly sour/citrusy, ever so slightly spicy in the chile department. I couldn't tell from the menu that this was a stew (I'm not familiar with the term Estofado, if that happened to be a giveaway), and it kind of took me by surprise. I probably wouldn't order it again, if only because the other items on the menu sound so good too.

Here's my quibble. Go ahead and giggle. We sat at table 69. Ok, stop giggling. Table 69 is a large round table for 8 that is so unbalanced, if anyone adjusts the weight on the table in front of them, it needs to be counterbalanced on the other side. The table bounced, shimmied and rocked like rubber raft on class III rapids. If you go there and they want to sit you at table 69, don't giggle and say "heyyyyy" like Fonzie about to score. Ask for another table. It was distracting. It was disturbing. It sucked.

I mentioned it to a woman near the host stand on my way out that the table just was awful and that something really needs to be done with it to give it more support. Or it should be replaced. She apologized, but I found the apology completely insincere. If she wasn't a manager, she should have told me that she'd inform one right away. If she was a manager, she should have told me "I'm very sorry. We haven't heard that about that table before." or "I'm very sorry. We've heard some recent concerns about that table and we're looking for a suitable replacement." I got something that was just one step above "Yeah, whatever."

I scratch it up to this apparent lack of finding good help that we hear so much about. I'd like to go back in a couple of weeks, if only to see if that table still has that problem. If it does, perhaps I'll request a manager just to see if my comment/concern/complaint made it anywhere further than the space between this woman's ears.

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Had a moderately disappointing dinner at Ceiba last night. While the service was excellent (from the host to our waiter) the food left something to be desired.

I started with the queso fundido. This dish was, unfortunately, absolutely tasteless. It's prepared with steak and some peppers (unclear which kind they were). If my eyes were closed, I wouldn't have been able to differentiate one from the other -- they and the cheese were completely bland. It has been a problem I've encountered with Ceiba's food before -- I'm a huge fan of the native Brazilian dish Feijoada -- but it's never been served with much flair or flavor.

My guests started with the grouper ceviche, which they seemed to like quite a bit. It was very fresh and well-seasoned.

I had the special last night -- seared duck with prosciutto wrapped asparagus and rosemary potatoes. The duck was good -- not great, though. The flavoring was excellent -- it was just a little dry. The asparagus was overdone and the potatoes, while well cooked, were a little overwhelmed by the seasoning.

My guests both ordered the bouillabaisse and they both loved it -- said the flavoring was excellent and the seafood was very well prepared. So, all in all, a hit or miss kind of night. I think it would be great if the two dishes I mentioned above were spiced up a little -- Ceiba is a beautiful restaurant and I've always had excellent service. Would be great if the food were more consistently good!

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Had a nice dinner at Ceiba last night, excellent black bean soup, Peruvian Parihuela listed as a boullabaisse but not really one, more iof a fish stew but very flavorful leaving one to have to decide if the prefer it to boullabaisse. The almond crusted halibut was moist and flavorful in a tangy sauce but paled compared to the othe rdishes on the table. The pork shank with collard greens was delicious and very rustic and stewy with red pepper condiments it rocked. desserts were just ok, over all the food was very good the waiter blah, the place is lacking the sole of a proprieter on thepremisis type restaurant, serving the massses but worht the occasional visit. Do they have bread in Peru?

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What is the difference between a "fish stew" and Bouillabaise?

See what CLifford Wright has to say -- here

"The most distinguishing characteristic of a bouillabaisse is not the fish, because all fish stews and soups have fish, but the unique flavoring derived from saffron, fennel seeds, and orange zest."

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Had RW dinner with three friends at Ceiba tonight. We all agreed that the dinner was-fine. Nothing really to write home about. There were a limited number of appetizers and desserts to select from, and any of the entrees.

I had the soup du jour, spicy shrimp and lobster bisque. It was very heavy on the spicy. The first taste on the tongue was slightly shrimp/lobstery, followed but a dull watery broth, then burning spice. By the time I finished the bowl my mouth was on fire (and I generally enjoy spicy foods). Friends had the Cuban Black Bean Soup which I didn't taste but was deemed 'ok', West Indies Conch Chowder- which was ok, very smoky and the Yucatan Shrimp "Cocktail" Ceviche which had a nice gazpacho-y sauce.

I had the Grilled Atlantic Salmon. The first course was way too spicy, the salmon (with Blue Crab-Avocado Fingerling Potato Tacos, Haricot Verts, Roasted Poblano Corn Sauce) screamed for some salt. The salmon was grilled nicely, the beans were fine, the corn sauce also desperately needed salt and didn't have much flavor otherwise. Friends had the Almond Crusted Pacific Halibut which was nicely done, but also very smoky. Peruvian Style "Boullabaisse" Parihuela which was difficult to eat (a bowl of shellfish in liquid broth) and the seafood was overcooked, and Sugar Cane Skewered Jumbo Shrimp was also had.

I think the dessert was the high point. The flan was very good, not too heavy, very nice texture. I had a chocolate chocolate chocolate brownie thing. And the third dessert was like a creamy French toast which was also-nice.

That sums it up. The food was fine, but not impressive in any way. The service was not so great, but I'm willing to chalk that up to RW. It was also very hot and very loud in the restaurant. I'll go back to Ten Pehn before I go back to Ceiba.

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Had a nice lunch at Ceiba today. Had the mussels, also known as "Clay Crock Steamed Bluehill Bay Mussels Chorizo, Dos Equis Beer, Chipolte Chili Sofrito". They were good.....the mussels were relatively plump and juicy, the sausage and sauce had a nice heat/kick. I'm a bit of a glutton so a few more mussels would have been nice....I'm guessing there were maybe 15 in the pot, but thats just a quibble.

No apps, no dessert, but we got a nice little cone of almond caramel popcorn with our check. Nice touch.

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Had a nice lunch at Ceiba today.

Your experience mirrors mine. For the past 3 months, I have been going to Ceiba once a week for lunch and have tried most of the items on their menu (i think they changed couple items recently) and have been happy with each meal. My favorite right now is their softshell crab salad, cubano sandwich and their chilled soup. Lunch can be done under $20...which I think for a sit down lunch at a nice environment, it is not too bad. FYI...the churros are addictive.

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Lunch can be done under $20...which I think for a sit down lunch at a nice environment, it is not too bad. FYI...the churros are addictive.

I think saying you can get lunch there for less than $20 is misleading, I went there today and spent twice that with no cocktails or dessert. I started with the shrimp cocktail that wasn't that good; the gazpacho like sauce was a little too much like ketchup for my taste. The tuna OTOH was excellent, the fried rice was flavorful and a perfect compliment to the tasty, moist tuna.

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That's my problem with RW, too. I TRY to stick with the $30.07 menu, but then you see something that sounds yummy on the normal menu that's not offered on the RW menu.....and, well....you get the idea!

Went to Ceiba last night, and while the RW menu included all their entrees (with an extra charge for 2 of them, I believe), they were really lacking in the app and dessert department, in my opinion. They offered only salads and soup, plus a shrimp ceviche for their app choices. Not too elaborate. The dessert list was 3 or 4, but didn't include their "signature" Churros with Mexican Hot Chocolate.

That being said.....I really enjoyed my entire meal (even though I spent more than anticipated....but I should've known I would!). The Scallops were excellent (and what WAS that creamy puree they sat atop? SO good), the Yellowtail Ceviche with Coconut Milk and Cashews was nice and spicy and fresh, and the Churros were yummy.

A friend ordered the Empanadas, another ordered the Fried Oysters....both were really tasty!

(And, of course, excellent Mojitos!)

Heading to Cordoroy on Saturday night....what should I get???

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I have eaten at Ceiba at least every couple months, and I am usually quite pleased, but not as much as I was when it first opened.

But, my lunch today was probably the best meal that I ever had there. I don't know if it this represents an improvement, a lucky day, or if I just ordered better. I had the conch chowder and the salmon with rice and peas and platanos. With a dash of salt on the salmon, everything was just right.

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Just had a wonderful dinner at Ceiba tonight. I started with the black bean soup, the ham and cheese croquetta made it delicious. Then came the grilled pork tenderloin which really flirted with the taste palettes. The mocha chocolate cake left something to be desired, but the key lime pie was excellent.

The wait staff are very attentive and wonderful. Will go back again very soon. It made for a very romantic wonderful dinner.

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During my last spell in DC I had lunch in Ceiba. My first experience there at dinner, a few years ago, was underwhelming. Lunch put it back in my rotation. The conch chowder was as good as I've had in the Carribbean. The gazpacho was spicy and gorgeously presented. I stayed safe with the fish tacos. The corn tortillas were really fresh, the fish was light and crispy. Dining partner had a chorizo quesadilla, which provided enough left-overs for lunch the next day...all in all just a very good performance. Oh, and the service was lively and attentive, but not fawning.

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I visited Ceiba for the first time Monday for a RW dinner. Everything was delicious from the flatbread crackers and dip through dessert. This was my first time trying ceviche and I liked it so much I would certainly order it again at Ceiba or elsewhere. As mentioned above the croquetta in the black bean soup elevated it above a normal bowl. My pork shank entree was enormous and I gorged myself and still had half to take home. Just a warning that the hot sauce served alongside is extremely hot. I like heat and this left my lips burning for a good 5 minutes from just a tiny taste. My BF's tuna was tasty but a little dry with not much sauce on the plate to help moisten it. Dessert choices were limited to 3, but the key lime and banana/caramel mousse were a nice and light end to the meal. I certainly didn't need the caramel popcorn brought with the check, but a few kernals were a nice treat.

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/bump/

Ceiba was mentioned in Katy McLaughlin's WSJ article on bar/lounges making up for fewer diners in the dining room. The article highlights the efforts some restaurants have made to catch this growing segment of the business.

CEIBA | Washington

What's New: The restaurant has converted about a quarter of its floor space into a lounge.

Bar Menu: Each night features a different specialty Latin specialty cocktail for $5. Appetizers for $5 include conch fritters and beef empanadas.

Deal: Weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m. and after 9:30, free "bocaditos," or hors d'oeuvres, are served in the lounge.

There's also a photo from Ron Blunt:

WK-AP224_COVER__F_20090331134752.jpg

The bar will never, ever be my cup of tea (I am, quite simply, SICK of dining in bars such as this - noisy, money-making thump machines that have proliferated all over town), but hopefully the main dining room - which was also very crowded last night - will be more to my tastes, which are rapidly becoming less tolerant of the "bar dining experience" - something which used to be a pleasure, but has lately become a chore.
Sadly, this looks like a "thump machine"
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/bump/

Ceiba was mentioned in Katy McLaughlin's WSJ article on bar/lounges making up for fewer diners in the dining room. The article highlights the efforts some restaurants have made to catch this growing segment of the business. There's also a photo from Ron Blunt:

WK-AP224_COVER__F_20090331134752.jpg

Sadly, this looks like a "thump machine"

I see where you guys are coming from and agree, BUT... if this is the price we have to pay for some of our area's best to come through the recession unscathed, then so be it. I'd prefer this to a massive wave of closings. Adapting and "leaning up" to make it through this long, unprecedented economic winter is something almost every place will have to do.

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Here are the ten beers currently available on tap at DC Coast:

1) Bud Light

2) Amstel Light

3) Hoegaarden

4) Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

5) Sam Adams Lager

6) Guinness

7) Bass Ale

8) Anchor Steam

9) Newcastle Brown Ale

10) Stella Artois

Nearly five months later, here are the ten beers currently available on tap at Ceiba:

1) Bud Light

2) Amstel Light

3) Hoegaarden

4) Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

5) Sam Adams Lager

6) Guinness

7) Bass Ale

8) Anchor Steam

9) Newcastle Brown Ale

10) Stella Artois

Mercifully, I was able to find a Cusqueña ($6.00) by the bottle to go along with my Shredded Duck Flautas ($12), made with fresh masa, black beans, and corn, served with chili de arbol, and salsa verde as dipping sauces. I followed that with Beef Empanadas Argentinas ($11), made with olives, eggs, raisins, served with spicy rocoto dipping sauce. These fried finger-food treats were expensive, and merely decent, the batter dominating the wan fillings, everything made more enjoyable by dunking them in as much sauce as possible.

It had been three months since I'd had these types of irresistibly sounding Mexican snacks in a relatively expensive corporate restaurant, and my August meal at Mio was superior in every way to what I had last night at Ceiba: better tasting, gutsier, and less expensive.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Had a nice dinner at Ceiba last night, excellent black bean soup, Peruvian Parihuela listed as a boullabaisse but not really one, more iof a fish stew but very flavorful leaving one to have to decide if the prefer it to boullabaisse. The almond crusted halibut was moist and flavorful in a tangy sauce but paled compared to the othe rdishes on the table. The pork shank with collard greens was delicious and very rustic and stewy with red pepper condiments it rocked. desserts were just ok, over all the food was very good the waiter blah, the place is lacking the sole of a proprieter on thepremisis type restaurant, serving the massses but worht the occasional visit. Do they have bread in Peru?

Last night, unexpectedly had dinner with an old friend at Ceiba's, who like you, ordered black bean soup and pork shank with collared greens and raved about food after every bite. I had a taste, and it was really good. I feel as if my food came from another restaurant.

The very first thing they brought us was their ubiquitous tortilla(?) wedges that were still hot when they reached our table and that amazing addictive dip others mentioned. The waitress said it was "Mexican hummus" made with chick peas, pumpkin seeds, a variety of peppers and cilantro. (I could eat it every day, well, almost every day, I wonder if anyone has a recipe?) I expected everything that followed to be on the same level - tasty, interesting, intriguing. I don't know much about Latin American food, the first really good empanada I ever tasted was at La Caraquena, courtesy of the $20 Tuesday organized by Ktmoomau(sp) in June, so I immediately ordered Beef Empanadas, and it was a mistake, a big mistake: they were quite heavy, greasy and dry, as if they have been reheated several times before they reached my plate. I ate one of the four. I also ordered Grilled Octopus Salad, and it was mushy, as if I were eating root vegetable puree of some kind. Octopus should never taste mushy. I have eaten a lot of octopi in my time, never ever I came across one with a texture like this one. I should have sent it back, but it was getting late, I did not want unpleasantness. Our waitress was super and probably as tired as I was and my friend was happy, enjoying every bite. I let it go.

No, we did not have dessert, but the popcorn they brought to our table was delicious.

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I feel as if my food came from another restaurant.

That mirrors my last experience at Ceiba. I had a salad that was close to nasty - aging lettuce, watery dressing in huge quantities...a salad that was surely composed hours before it was served. But the ceviche was delicious. I think one has to order carefully here. But the bar specials are great, and for that alone, Ceiba stays on my radar.

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That mirrors my last experience at Ceiba. I had a salad that was close to nasty - aging lettuce, watery dressing in huge quantities...a salad that was surely composed hours before it was served. But the ceviche was delicious. I think one has to order carefully here. But the bar specials are great, and for that alone, Ceiba stays on my radar.

I did not know about bar specials. I did not know anything about Ceiba until after I ate there. Lesson learned: check DR before going places, not after. G

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We are having a big conference at the Regan Center this week, so we were taking some members out to dinner last night and wanted it to be walkable. We ended up choosing Ceiba and it could not have gone better. Despite having to walk 3.5 blocks on a 115 heat index July day in DC, we had a great dinner in their Blue Room with excellent, non-intrusive service. I'd imagine it's always a challenge to try to wrangle a group of 30+ and find the right balance of attention and staying in the background when various people are speaking to a group. The wait staff at Ceiba did a great job keeping us in both drinks and food.

We did a pre-set menu of 3 courses with two choices per course, and although I only got to try one choice from each, I heard nothing but positive feedback about the other option as well. For appetizers we had a choice between Shrimp & Goat Cheese Chili Relleno (Black Bean Muneta, Tres Salsa - $12) and Blue Crab Tortilla Soup (Jumbo Lump Crab Pico de Gallo, Crispy Tortillas - $9). I had the relleno and loved the plating with the colorful sauces. It was fried, but not too heavy and greasy and the goat cheese obviously had a nice tang. The presentation on the soup was great as well with the bowls brought out filled with I believe crab and tortilla, then a small pitcher of soup poured over top.

Our main courses were seared Yellowfin Tuna (Crab and Black Bean Tostada, Serrano Ginger Vinaigrette - $27) and Grilled Pork Tenderloin (Nopales al Pastor Relleno, Chihuahua Cheese, Ranchero Sauce - $23). The tuna was a nice medium rare and the tostada offered a nice, crispy contrast.

Desserts were Mexican Chocolate Mousse Cake (Candied Pecans, Chocolate Tuile - $8) and Buttermilk Key Lime Tart (Pineapple-Lime Sorbet, Meringue, Pepitas - $8). The key lime was awesome and creamy and the pepitas added just the right amount of salt to the sweetness. I don't love sorbet, so I ate around that, but the tart itself was an awesome end to a great meal.

Overall the events person, Darnell, was easy to work with and they were very nice about accommodating our various changes in group size (from an initial order of 28 to a day of change to 30 and then an onsite change to 32). They were very quick to add in a couple of place settings for us at the last minute and made it all work very well. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Ceiba for a private room for 20-40 people.

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Had a very nice dinner at Ceiba on Friday night with my +1, my parents, my brother, and my brother's girlfriend. The only slight complaint is that the service was incredibly slow. Our server was very nice, but she often took a long time to get to our table (to take drinks orders, food orders, bring the check, collect the check, etc). But since we were enjoying catching up with each other, it wasn't a huge deal (despite it being nearly a 3 hour dinner).

We started with a variety of appetizers around the table (a couple of which aren't listed on the online menu):

  • Queso Fundido (with flour tortillas - $10?) - This is served in a big black lava stone bowl and was piping hot. We didn't love it, but it was ok. The flavors came through better when eaten alone than with the flour tortilla, and I think would've been better with tortilla chips.
  • Goat Cheese Chili Relleno (Black Bean Muneta, Tres Salsa - $12) - I didn't try this on this particular trip, but I did have it back in July and really liked it. My brother and his GF enjoyed it as well. The presentation is still one of my favorite things about it.
  • Blue Crab Tortilla Soup (Jumbo lump crab, pico de gallo, tortilla strips - $9) - My +1 had this and the bite I had was great. Tasted like a normal tortilla soup, but the addition of the crab was a nice change.
  • Ceviche Sampler (striped bass, tuna, aji, shrimp - $16) - This was a great way to try each of the 4 ceviches on the menu. Some were spicier than others, and although I love heat, I think my favorite was the mildest - the striped bass. The flavors were simpler, but better developed.

Our entrees were:

  • Seared Yellowfin Tuna (Crab and Black Bean Tostada, Serrano Ginger Vinaigrette $27) - This was across the table from me so I didn't try it, but it looked delicious and perfectly rare.
  • Blackened Swordfish ala Plancha (Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Asparagus, Calamari Escabeche $24) - My mom wasn't sure she liked swordfish, but ended up cleaning her plate. The fish was extremely moist and well-seasoned.
  • “Moqueca Bahiana" Brazilian Seafood Stew (Rock Lobster, Prawns, Calamari, Mussels, Traditional Accompaniments $28) - Although it took a while to de-shell everything and prep it to eat, the effort was worth it for the great flavor of the stew and the tenderness of the seafood.
  • Slow Braised Pork Shank “Feijoada” (Black Beans, Collard Greens, Rice, Traditional Accompaniments $26) - This is a huge (caveman style) serving of pork that I had on a previous visit. Didn't try it this time but again, it looked good.
  • Crab Cakes (not on the online menu) - Dad had this and cleared his plate. No complaints, although nothing earth shattering.
  • Nightly special of 14 oz bone-in pork chop (with sauteed green beans and olive oil mashed potatoes) - Mine might have been the disappointment of the meal. Nothing bad per say, but I think I always end up a little disappointed with pork chops. The meat was a bit dry and the sauce/rub didn't add a ton of flavor. The potatoes were interestingly seasoned though, and the green beans were good. I think in the future I'll stick to seafood at Ceiba though.

I have to say, dessert was perhaps a highlight of the meal:

  • Warm Sugar Canella Dusted Churros (Dark Rich Hot Fudge, Cinnamon Marshmallow $8) - My parents split an order of these, as did my +1 and I (after seeing them served to another table and changing our dessert choice). They were absolutely delicious and I would highly recommend them. Each serving was four 6-8" churros, which were perfect for sharing. They were fresh out of the fryer, crunchy on the outside, but soft and chewy in the middle, dusted with the perfect amount of cinnamon sugar. Served along side was a small shot glass of rich dark chocolate, topped by two homemade marshmallows. It was such a great combination. My mom and I even sipped from the chocolate glass once we had finished the churros (extremely uncouth, but worth it for the last drips of chocolate!).
  • Warm Pumpkin Pound Cake (Mexican Eggnog Ice Cream, Butter Rum Sauce $8) - I didn't have a taste, but my brother and his GF said it was a great seasonal dessert.

Dinner concluded with a couple small bowls of caramel popcorn brought out with the check. A long and decadent meal for sure, but a great place to catch up with family and enjoy some good food.

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Does service make a difference? HELL, YES!

A group of us went here last night before going to the Warner Theater to catch Lewis Black's show. (As an aside, the organizer couldn't find anyplace else to accommodate the six of us). I arrived first and was immediately asked if I wanted to be seated at the table. Why, yes, I would. I was able to quiz one of the servers on whether all of us would have to take advantage of the "pre-event menu" or not. Not a problem. I was given the wine list and chose a glass of sparkling wine and was presented with the usual cone of crispy bread and the usual spicy spread.

So, I sipped and nibbled and perused the menu and waited for everybody else to arrive. Our waiter told us that the chef had been apprized of our time limits and all but one of our party arrived in short order. The waiter was told that the sixth member would be late and that the rest of us would order. Absolutely no problem. We were eating our entrees when she showed up. No problem. She received her app and her entree quickly, ate what she wanted, and had part of her main boxed up. We were able to wait until she finished before ALL of us got our desserts.

Was the food life-altering? Nah. But, nobody sent anything back for any reason. At $29 for three courses, that's a ridiculous expectation. I had a perfectly cooked piece of salmon with an interesting side and lovely sauce, a not over-dressed salad comprised of perfectly fresh ingredients, and a delicous flan. This was just the right amount of food and wine as a prelude to a night stuck in a seat--that we had to walk a couple of blocks to get to--and I wasn't at all hungry by the time I got home, after dealing with the Metro system.

This was the second time I've been to Ceiba in a couple of years--both times before going to a theater (the National is within the same couple of blocks) and, while it isn't a destination place, IMHO, it certainly fills the bill for pre-theater meals. And, the service could hardly have been better.

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