The Ceviche Trio

Ceviche is a traditional Latin American preparation. Citrus juices stand in for heat, “cooking” the fish by breaking down the proteins. Done right, soaking the seafood in a highly seasoned acid bath leaves the flesh moist, satiny and meltingly tender. In the process, all traces of mouth-puckering sourness disappear. Chef Matthew Mytro gets it right three ways in his ceviche trio at Paladar, this year’s runner up for Best New Restaurant.

“Working with sour elements,” he explains, “is about what happens when you put them together with other ingredients. Acids really carry and spotlight flavors.”

In this appetizer, shrimp are prepared Ecuadorian style, with the juice of limes, oranges and tomatoes, as well as tamarind pulp, and then tossed with pickles, garlic and avocado. For a more nuevo interpretation, tuna is doused with a roasted chili vinaigrette and paired with aromatic basil, watermelon and honeydew. The salmon (a fatty fish with an assertive personality of its own) was the hardest to perfect, says Mytro. “It took 50 iterations before I hit it.” He uses coconut milk, limes, rice wine vinegar, onions, cilantro and pineapple.

“There’s a lot going on in this dish, and it captures the spirit we’re going for here. The flavors pop. It’s colorful, lively, playful and full of surprises. Just like the restaurant.” 28601 Chagrin Blvd., Eton Chagrin Boulevard, Woodmere, (216) 896-9020

Ode to the Fried Pickle
[By Andy Netzel]

O, Fried Pickle, how I wish
that we had never met.
Batter a dill and fry it up;
take something unhealthy
and make it worse still.
Fat Fish Blue douses you in hot sauce, making me sweat
but that’s all part of the culinary thrill.
You’re not a novelty,
but a ubiquitous choice:
Bricco, Town Fryer, Big Guys, Pub,
Beer Engine, Rusty Bucket,
near everywhere.
Every time I see you on a menu
I rejoice.
Called Alabama;
more of you here than there.
Real Dixie insists on pickle chips,
but spears are fine, see?
O, Fried Pickle, how I wish that we had never met.
For my reluctance to pass you up
will surely kill me.

Flying Fig
Tempura-battered Green Beans

Karen Small hits a sour note with her curry yogurt sauce. But add a kiss of honey, a puddle of pineapple caramel and a mound of crunchy, tempura-battered green beans and the chef has a dish with perfect pitch. The opposites here not only attract, they complement one another. The sweetness and tartness have a synergistic effect, each enhancing the experience of the other when combined. Normally, selections come and go at Flying Fig — but customers won’t let her take this savory starter off the menu. For the full effect, she recommends dipping a bean in the thick, tangy yogurt, then dragging it through the candied fruit puree. 2523 Market Ave., Cleveland, (216) 241-4243

#1 pho
Canh Chua

You can actually feel it in your eyeballs, the sourness. It comes from the tamarind, and it’s the defining characteristic ofcanh chua, or Vietnamese sour soup. Delightfully tart, with bright citrus notes, tamarind is like a wake-up call for your taste buds. But this soup is no one-trick pony. The electrifying tartness is followed by a pungent, sweat-inducing heat, while chunks of ripe pineapple provide refreshing sweetness, a sort of tropical vacation for the tongue. Like most Vietnamese dishes, sour fish soup artfully balances those intense tastes into a magical, memorable elixir. 3120 Superior Ave., Cleveland, (216) 781-1176

Crop Bistro & Bar
Hot Popcorn with Balsamic Glaze & Asiago

Imagine a salad, with strips of red onions and red and green peppers, plus spinach, drizzled and tossed with a snappy balsamic vinaigrette and garnished with asiago cheese. Now, screech that train of thought to a halt, throw the lettuce out the window and shake up the rest with popcorn. In chef Steve Schimoler’s playful hands, popcorn is a canvas for the union of balsamic glaze and veggies. The sharp taste of the glaze punches up the citrusy, sour notes of the peppers and onions while the baby spinach gives it an edge, delivering a zingy alterna-salad in the form of fine-dining snack food.1400 W. Sixth St., Cleveland, (216) 696-2767
Amber Matheson

on a sour note

A forkful of sweet beets and sour goat cheese give the taste buds a workout. Take any kind of complex recipe, and you won’t have a single flavor. But in the Baricelli Inn’s beet salad, the overwhelming note is the strong, distinctive taste of goat cheese complemented by citrus undertones. It’s a great example of why different flavors work with each other.

Roasted Beets: The beets are sprayed with lemon vincotto and other acids, which, combined with the natural sweetness of the vegetable, give the dish a complex, tasty flavor. Mixing beets with lemon is a classic combination — a sweet and sour double punch.

Watercress: The watercress is flowery, adds the crispness you expect in a salad and really freshens everything up.

Jacquin Goat Cheese: This fermented cheese gives the dish an overall sour undertone. It’s the strongest taste on the plate.

Onion: The onions help bring out the sweetness of the beets.

Toasted Pine Nuts: The nuts have a lot of oil in them, which helps marry the flavors.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: It’s the straight man on the dish, cutting through everything else and playing alongside the lemon in the aftertaste. 
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