When every food critic or blogger first starts out they have this image of themselves unearthing hidden hole in the wall restaurant gems tucked away in little shopping centers where no one would think to look. In reality places like that exist but they are few and far between. They’re also incredibly difficult to find. For every 1 gem you try 15 or 20 not so wonderful places where you waste time and money. I’m happy to share with you that today we found one of those places every food blogger dreams of finding. We unearthed a true gem in Ceviche Jax. Ceviche Jax is a little hole in the wall restaurant with only 8 tables located just off Atlantic blvd in Atlantic Beach. Ceviche offers traditional Peruvian cuisine along with a few different varieties of ceviche. The atmosphere is fairly upscale while the prices are very affordable and the restaurant is fairly laid back. We brought the kids along on our visit and didn’t feel out of place. You can tell the folks at Ceviche are passionate about Peruvian cuisine because you experience that passion in every dish they bring out.
Food: We kicked off the meal with anticuchos appetizer ($5.99). Traditionally this would be cow heart on a skewer. At Ceviche Jax they make anticuchos with skirt steak instead which obviously is much more palatable for your average American diner. The anticuchos were great and the yucca that accompanied it was good as well. My only complaint about this dish was the portion size. When you order the anticuchos you receive two skewers with two smallish pieces of skirt steak. I guess at $5.99 it’s not a completely unreasonable portion. Next we had to try the namesake dish so we ordered the mixed ceviche. Ceviche is such a great dish because you can enjoy great flavor and get a ton of protein without getting all the fat and calories you’d normally get with most flavorful meat dishes. They offer mild or spicy versions. We opted for mild as opposed to the traditionally spicy version. The mixed ceviche came with white fish, shrimp, squid, and octopus. It was delicious. The sauce the ceviche was covered in was really good and the citrus flavor ceviche is known for was definitely evident. I’d be surprised if the spicy version wasn’t even better than the mild version we tried. This also came with a decent sized piece of sweet potato which was the perfect accompaniment to balance out the citrus. We tried two different dinners. The first was called tacu tacu. Tacu tacu is a sort of white beans and rice cake stacked with steak and a bit of roasted tomatoes and onion on top. The steak had the most amazing flavor. It tasted like it had been marinate in some sort of soy based marinade and almost had a hint of citrus. Maybe I’m imagining the citrus flavor since we were also eating ceviche. I don’t know. Either way, the flavor of the steak was great and slightly out of the ordinary. The other entree we tried was the mango chicken($10.99). The menu actually said it would be an explosion of mango flavors. It definitely wasn’t an explosion of mango. It was still good though. You tasted heavy cream with a nice mango overtone. Who doesn’t love heavy cream. This dish came with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. They weren’t anything to write home about. I can’t forget to mention the awesome passion fruit juice they have. One of the things I love about great little spanish restaurants is they almost always offer an array of juices that are soooooo much better than juices normally served at restaurants. This passion fruit was exactly that. It was far better than any juice you’d get at a typical restaurant. It was very thick almost like a smoothie’s thickness and just plain delicious. Make sure to try one of their juices if you visit Ceviche.
Service: When we walked in at 4:30 on a Thursday the place was empty. We had the place all to ourselves and the waitress gave us fantastic service. With such a unique menu full of traditional Peruvian dishes a place like Ceviche needs to have a wait staff that can really explain the dishes well. Our waitress was up to the task. We asked questions about 6 dishes and she could accurately describe every one in detail. She was on top of everything and ready to help in any way.
We’re always told, “You get what you pay for”. In life that statement usually rings true. At Ceviche Jax the quality that you get is more than “what you paid for”. If you love unique food and trying new restaurants you should make a point of stopping into Ceviche Jax in Atlantic Beach.