Ceviche Project Takes Over MessHall Kitchen for Five-Course Dinner

Octavio Olivas serves his high-minded take on Mexican seafood dishes

As a boy in Mexico City and the son of a fisherman, Octavio Olivas would accompany his father out at sea. It was there, sitting on a boat with freshly caught fish–along with some limes and chile peppers–that Olivas’ passion for ceviche was born. Back in 2011 Olivas and his wife Shannon began the Ceviche Project, a monthly pop-up specializing in elevated ceviches and ambitious spin-offs using market fresh produce. Usually a Sunday brunch affair, Ceviche Project will be staging a dinner at MessHall Kitchen in Los Feliz, September 21, for a 5-course meal with cocktail pairings.

No news on the menu yet, but Olivas did mention potential ingredients that he’s considering: sea urchin, razor clams, halibut, and striped sea bass. You can be sure from previous summer offerings–Big Eye tuna ceviche with pineapple, mandarin, mint, and rice caviar, or shrimp aguachile with red plum, orange, cucumber, peanut, yuzu ,and habanero–that the food will be anything but straightforward. “Our approach is not very traditional,” says Olivas, who often mixes chiles from Mexico with citrus in bespoke sorbets. Many of the chiles he uses are either grown in his garden or brought back in suitcases from Mexico. And he oftens taps International Marine Products for sashimi grade fish or seafood.

Olivas’ vast knowledge of the subject belies the supposed simplicity of the dish. “What I’ve learned over the years is that the type of seafood itself can often dictate the amount of time it needs to marinate,” says Olivas, who notes that Peruvian ceviche, for instance, is flash marinated for two to five minutes, whereas in Mexico it often takes up to three hours. Whitefish, he says, may benefit only from a brief marinade, while shrimp may call for a longer period. “Don’t be afraid of using seasonal limes like key lime, or other citrus like oro blanco, grapefruit, orange or tangerine.”

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redarrow MessHall Kitchen, 4500 Los Feliz Blvd., 323-660-6377