Credit where credit is due: the only reason why I know about CVI.CHE 105 is due to my dear friend Dana over at The Kitchen Witch. As part of a recent email exchange, I mentioned to her that I was headed to Miami and she recommended this place for its excellent ceviche, so automatically I had to place it on my map of fun. During our first full day in the city, with Michael at the convention center and the weather looking questionable (I had made it to the beach, but the clouds were looking ominous so I cut it short), I decided that the only thing to do was to take a walk and see if I could find this place and have a nice, somewhat late lunch.
There are a few locations of CVI.CHE 105 in Miami: one downtown, one on Miami Beach, and another more north. The Miami Beach location comes right at the end of an outdoor mall area, which makes for a pleasant walk, but because the rain was imminent by the time I got there I was desperate to sit down in some much-needed air conditioning.
The space is gorgeous, with cool white bars and tables, a central bar teeming with fresh fish, and a vibe that was both upscale yet still relaxed. As is my wont, I sidled up to the bar, ordered a Pisco sour, and started perusing the menu. My bartender Rogel suggested the “winner’s” ceviche, which in Spanish is ganador, over the other sauces available. Since I was already enjoying the pisco he made for me, I figured he was worthy of trust so I put the fate of my lunch in his capable hands.
Obviously, I was right to do so because the ganador sauce on the fish was absolutely fantastic. Made from a combination of Peruvian peppers (that they fly in), it was spicy without being aggressively so, and you could still make out the tart lime, giving the fish (Corvina, a simple white fish) some nice complexity. It was exactly what I wanted on that rainy and humid day, and the food was so good that I took Michael and one of his colleagues there for lunch Thursday after they were done at the booth. They too had the ganador ceviche while for variety’s sake I got the aji amarilla, which was tasty, but definitely a bit of a step-down.)
I had grand plans a few weeks ago to attempt to recreate the ganador sauce at home, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be a completely faithful one because I don’t have access to the same fresh produce as those in Miami do. I did, however, find some of the peppers in paste form on Amazon and so I ordered them, but the delivery was bungled so I had to wait a bit before cracking into them. Chef Juan Chipoco shared the recipe a few years ago on the local Miami news, so at least I had something to work with and I figured I could improvise the rest.
The first time I made this, I cracked open each of the pepper pastes and had a taste, and wow, were they hot. The original recipe called for five medium roasted rocoto peppers, and since we didn’t have those I used red hot chili peppers instead. After tasting the pastes, I was very concerned that the sauce-as-is would be inedible because of all that heat, so instead of adding it all to the lime juice, I spooned it a little at a time and tasted it to make sure we could handle it. While it was tasty, we were left with a ton of leftover sauce so I decided to try a more mild pepper as the base to let the pepper pastes bring the heat by themselves.
Since I already had a jar of piquillo peppers open, I figured they would serve as the perfect, mild foil for the much-spicier pepper pastes the next time I set about making this dish. My hunch was correct, and the resulting sauce still had heat and warmth but was far easier on the palate than my first attempt. It also tasted more authentic to the original dish, so maybe fresh rocoto peppers are not as spicy as when they are turned into a paste?
At the restaurant, the dish is complete with a chunk of sweet potato and sides of Peruvian corn, one side being toasted and the other being fresh. The latter isn’t always the easiest to find, so instead, we’ll serve some Terra chips or similar if the mood strikes. Corn nuts are also a nice garnish that adds some salty crunch to the affair.
It may not be the perfect recreation of a dish you must try for yourself if you’re ever in Miami, but it’s not a shabby way of enjoying fish on a particularly muggy summer evening.
Ceviche ganador inspired by CVI.CHE 105
Serves 4 as an appetizer
For the sauce:
- 5 piquillo peppers, drained
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 3-inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 tsp rocoto paste (find it here on Amazon)
- 1 tsp aji limo paste (find it here on Amazon)
- 1 garlic clove
- ¾ cup water
- 2 Tbsp neutral oil such as canola, grapeseed, or vegetable
- ½ medium-size red onion or 1 small red onion, in large chunks
- Kosher salt, to taste
For the ceviche:
- Juice of 4 limes
- ¾ lb fresh white fish, or a mix of fish and shellfish (Corvina is what’s shown here, but we’ve also used perch and red snapper; bay scallops are an excellent shellfish to use)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- Terra chips, to serve (optional)
- Corn nuts, to serve (optional)
Make the sauce: in a blender carafe, combine the peppers, celery, red onion, garlic clove, pepper pastes, ginger, water, and oil and process until very smooth. Season with kosher salt and set aside.
To finish the ceviche, cut the fish (if using) into 1-inch chunks, and place in a non-reactive bowl. Add the lime juice, ganador sauce, and the minced garlic and shallot and stir well to combine. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes in the fridge before serving with chips and corn nuts, if desired.