Bocanova Turns Out Inspired Ceviche

Executive chef Rick Hackett is celebrating local specialties, including ceviche, with a monthly multicourse regional dinner series that started this spring. Regions explored in the series thus far have included Argentina, Chile, and Mexico; future feasts will honor Peru, Brazil, and beyond.


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Bocanova spreads the word about the ceviches of Latin America and the Caribbean for fresh tastes from the sea.

Photo by Lori Eanes

A little bit salty, a little bit spicy, a little bit citrusy, with big juicy bursts of sunshine and the sea: That’s the taste of ceviche, the cured seafood that’s a centuries-old staple throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

“A great ceviche is all about the freshness of the fish,” says Rick Hackett, executive chef/co-owner of Jack London Square’s Bocanova, whose popular starters include several types of ceviche.

“One of the reasons we do Pan-American cuisine at Bocanova is because of how different things are from country to country: Ceviche in particular showcases these differences,” Hackett explains.

“In Mexico, the fish is cured with citrus. In Peru, the fish is dressed to order, so there’s a sashimi quality to it. If we’re talking about shrimp ceviche, most of the time the shrimp is poached, but there are regions where they cure it with citrus. In Ecuador, the ceviches are more soupy.”

From region to region, ceviche’s basic ingredients “tend to be very similar, but the chiles are different. In Mexico, you’re using jalapeños and serranos, while in Peru you’re using aji amarillo, aji panca, and aji rocoto. In Ecuador, you might be using mirasol peppers.”

Hackett is celebrating local specialties, including ceviche, with a monthly multicourse regional dinner series that started this spring. Regions explored in the series thus far have included Argentina, Chile, and Mexico; future feasts will honor Peru, Brazil, and beyond.

A lot of research goes into each menu item, Hackett affirms. “I usually start by going through my thousand or so cookbooks” and consulting colleagues.

“Cuisine, like a language, is a living thing. I’m not following anyone else’s recipe; I’m coming up with my versions.”

That plays out in Bocanova’s rock-cod ceviche—made with piquillo pepper, smoked Calabrian chile, red onion, avocado, and cilantro—and steelhead ceviche, made with leche de tigre, aji rocoto, red onion, cilantro, and sweet potato.

Hackett loves them both equally.

“I don’t play favorites, because food from all the different countries is something to be embraced and enjoyed, as long as it’s prepared well and with thoughtfulness.”

Bocanova: A Pan-American Grill, 55 Webster St., Oakland, 510-444-1233, www.Bocanova.com.

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