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Ahh, we’re getting’ hoity-toity now. Ceviche, the national dish of Peru — raw seafood “cooked” in citrus juices along with vegetables.

I’ve chosen it for Food Fight largely because of a wedding reception we attended on the beach of Grand Cayman last year that served ceviche as an appetizer. I had little experience with the dish, and was so gobsmacked by it that I stole one from another table. Just as I was furtively hunting for another, the rains came. I left that wedding weekend with the resolute understand that, “damn, I like ceviche.”

But would I like it back on my home turf? As it happens, ceviche is not that easy to find in local restaurants. One patently obvious choice: Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant on Beach Drive in St. Pete. For contrast, I also selected The Galley, a nautically named tavern a few blocks west that touts an elevated, seafood-centric menu.

A fair fight? We’ll see.


At 4:30 on Wednesday, we chose to sit on the covered veranda. The mercury was the mid-70s and a light breeze wafted through — so, y’know, perfect.

In early 2021, Ceviche moved a few blocks north from its longtime spot on the ground floor of the Ponce de Leon hotel. For what it’s worth, I prefer the current location (which used to be the home of the British pub Moon Under Water).

Our server arrived quickly. We ordered Ceviche Casa ($15) and Pan con Tomate ($9), grilled bread with tomato confit.


The Ceviche arrived with in less than five minutes, but there was no sign of the Pan con Tomate. I would have preferred them to be served together, but I didn’t specify.

The ceviche came in a small bowl, with plump shrimp sticking up next to slices of dried banana (or plantain), lolling in a pool of citrusy juice.

Texture and Taste

Ceviche is not cooked, per se. Marinating it in the citrus juice releases its proteins — a process called denaturation — which has a similar effect to cooking. End of lesson.

All of the seafood in this ceviche — which included the shrimp, market fish, squid and scallops (albeit small pieces) — was tender, save for the squid, which has a rubbery texture that I’ve never been able to get past.

The juice played the starring role — tart but not to the point of puckery, and emboldened by a little something extra that gave it a touch of spicy heat. After a couple forkfuls, I went with the spoon, a savvy move that allowed me to scoop up more juice to join the seafood.

The bread dish came out when we were more than halfway done with the ceviche. No matter. There would be no dipping. Let’s just say that the Pan con Tomate was not what we expected. It looked and tasted like a mini-flatbread pizza, a dry one at that.

The Galley

This place is wedged into a weathered block on 4th Street between Central and 1st Avenue North. The only sign I saw was on the door. The Galley’s web designer has created an online presence that’s far more upscale than the real thing. That’s a slippery slope, though, because it invites disappointment — as was the case with us.

We passed on the sidewalk tables — too much 4th Street traffic noise — in favor of a round indoor table with a wooden bench by the window. The hard-cover menus, separate ones for food and drink, had tattered edges.

The Ceviche ($15.99) came with tortilla chips, but we added toast points for two bucks because I still hoped to do some dipping.


Served in a martini glass with a lime wedge, the ceviche looked kind of cute. It was readily apparent, however, that the chunky Cuban-bread toast points would not be needed.

Texture and Taste

The juice had a distinctly orange flavor, which proved detrimental. The menu says lime juice, but that’s not what I tasted. Plus, the juice had no discernible spice. Pooled on the bottom of the glass, the stuff was hard to reach anyway.

The bigger — biggest — problem: not enough seafood. The glass lacked a single whole shrimp, and the pieces of grouper were few and far between. This ceviche consisted mostly of tomato, pepper and onion.

And the Winner of the Ceviche Skirmish Is …

Imagine me on stage at the Oscars opening the envelope for an award that’s a foregone conclusion [say, Oppenheimer].


You can certainly make the argument that this FFF was a blatant mismatch. And I can buy that. Let me add, though, that The Galley’s online menu made the place, and the dish, look like a contender. And … The Galley’s version cost 99 cents more.

















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One Response

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