>> Caleta 111 Cevicheria | Eat the World NYC

20 January 2020

Caleta 111 Cevicheria


It is hard to imagine Caleta 111 in a couple months from now, after the predictable New York Times review comes out and this tiny corner space under the J train in Richmond Hill is bursting with humanity. Will the sea-blue walls be able to contain everyone hungry for some of the best ceviche in town?

The colorful walls are the new home of Chef Luis Caballero, who has previously cooked in Lima and most recently in Williamsburg at Llama Inn. He still wears his chef coat from Raymi, an upscale Peruvian restaurant in Midtown. No doubt he did excellent work at all of them, but he seems at home and completely at ease in his new Queens cevicheria, leading a small team in the execution of everything.

While small is definitely a theme that comes back again and again here, forego any open tables in the back and grab a seat at the bar. The kitchen is right in the front window, so all of the action is right here. But better yet, this is a guaranteed way to get involved, as Chef Caballero is a very talkative man and will make sure you are happy.

Despite having opened on the 21st of September last year, the restaurant still has that new car smell. Rhythms and moods are not established yet, they are still selling themselves to newcomers. Everyone is friendly, but by the end of the meal, the chef will have asked you about all your travels in Perú and any previous experiences with the food.

For now at least, the limited menu only focuses on the sea. There is no chifa food here, nor are there rotisserie chickens, but you will not miss either. Even the desserts which do have a spot on the menu have not quite arrived yet, although were promised soon. What is on the menu and what you will come here for first is ceviche, available in three individual ways (fish, shrimp, and seafood) and two mixes, one of which is customized by the patron if desired.

To get your taste buds kicking, a dish full of roasted Peruvian corn (above) will arrive before the main attractions. As you would in Perú, pair this with a glass of their house-made chicha morada ($4, not shown), by far the nicest in the city. This Andean-origin drink made from culli, or purple corn, is just the right amount of sweet while full of the tastes of fruit, cinnamon, and cloves.

For the standards of New York City, a place where you usually must spend ungodly amounts of money for seafood that does not seem old or from a freezer, this ceviche de corvina ($21, above) is damn near perfect. The thick chunks of of corvina, a fish found in the Pacific waters of Central and South America and beloved for ceviche, are "cooked" just right. Not too little, not too much. You could almost tell before putting it in your mouth how good it was going to be.

Chef Caballero's special sauce blend is sometimes served in shot glasses on the side, more as presentation than anything because the liquid would travel to other parts of the plate, but this ends up being a great way to eat. Some bites can be dipped for more lime tartness, some can remain more basic. Paired with pieces of a lovely sweet potato, crispy plantain chips, and big pieces of hominy, it is hard to go wrong. Even the seaweed garnish is from Perú, and delicious.

There is an option to pair your ceviche with either one of three seafood causas, a dish prepared with what becomes something of sculpted mashed potatoes, or arroz con mariscos ($21, above), which can in a pinch be compared to a seafood paella. Even the big, meaty clams are as fresh as ever, again requiring a re-grounding when remembering you are eating this in New York City.

Besides the rice, clams, mussels, octopus, and shrimp, the entire bowl is spiced throughout with ají panca, a deep reddish-brown pepper beloved in Perú. This mild punch is balanced with a bit of Peruvian beer as well, but the rice is still much less "wet" than most paellas.

The prices listed above are for individual orders of each dish, but the combos are a flat $35.

Chef Luis Caballero in his comfort zone.

As you can see with the logo, netting, a ship wheel, and serving dishes shaped like whales, the point here is to remain safely away from dry land. The maritime theme is duplicated on almost everything. Despite the J train rumbling overhead, when summer comes, the front of the shop is open to the street, and warm humid air makes it way to your table, life might seem like it is headed in the right direction.

Don't despair if you have found yourself seated at the back with those "premium" seats at the bar full. When the chef has a moment to spare between orders, he quickly makes his way back to hear from his customers, whether they be friends or strangers.

Caleta 111 Cevicheria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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