Gaviota Brasas & More

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Gaviota Brasas exterior

I'm sure the owners of Gaviota, the Peruvian restaurant that opened late last year in the former Nick's Italian Cafe in Thornton Park, have a good reason for opening a second location so soon -- and so close by.

The new -- or newer -- Gaviota is on Colonial Drive, just over three miles away. But perhaps even curiouser than the proximity are the differences between the two restaurants.

The Thornton Park Gaviota is in the sleek Sanctuary condominiums building. It offers white tablecloth dining inside and a patio overlooking Eola Drive.

The Colonial Drive Gaviota occupies a free-standing building that was once a fast food outlet -- the drive-up window lane is still there but not functioning. (This was the brief home of Casa Barcelona and before that California Burrito Express.) The dining room is more casual and tablecloth free. (It would be casual even without the step ladder that was standing next to the bar during most of my meal.) There is a patio here, too, but it comes with the whooshing of cars speeding along U.S. Highway 50. But the parking is easier!

Gaviota

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Gaviota interior

Among the three troubled restaurant spaces that came with the opening of the Sanctuary condominium complex, nine or so years ago, the middle one seemed to be the troubledest.

It started as Fifi’s Patisserie, a French style cafe that had a very short life, then became Sanctuary Diner, and Nick’s Italian Cafe after that. In the time since Nick’s closed — more than three years ago — there have been at least three concepts announced that never came to fruition. They were Honey, Pagne and Wallace Grill. People talk about certain spaces that are cursed because restaurants close so soon after opening. What does it say about one where so many don’t even open?

Now comes Gaviota, a Peruvian restaurant. It is unlike any of the other restaurants that have been here — for one thing, it has opened! It’s also a fine dining restaurant, literally a white tablecloth operation with servers in white shir. Set among the many casual nearby eateries, including fellow Sanctuary occupants, Oudom Thai & Sushi and the Stubborn Mule, Gaviota is unique in that respect.

Unique, too, in that it is the only restaurant in the downtown area to offer Peruvian food, a cuisine that is enjoying a surge in popularity.

Mr. Cebiche

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Cebiche ceviche

I arrived in Mt. Dora a little early for an appointment recently — it’s difficult to gauge how long a drive it’s going to be and I lucked out with light traffic. So I decided to pop in to a restaurant that specializes in ceviche, sometimes, as in this case, spelled cebiche.

That’s Mr. Cebiche to you, pal.

And by the way, this isn’t a place you just pop into, not unless you already know where it is. I had the address, but as I drove down Donnelly Street in the sleepy downtown, I couldn’t spot it. It was only after I parked the car and walked to where the address should be that I discovered it’s inside a sort of arcade of businesses, on the second floor, in a charming little space that overlooks the street below.

Because I had only a half hour before my appointment, I ordered something that could come out quickly. And, not so coincidentally, was the signature dish of the place: ceviche. I mean Mr. Cebiche. Ceviche, of course, is generally fish that is “cooked” in citrus juices. Because this is a process that takes time, and a dish that is served chilled, I knew that ceviche wouldn’t require any cooking. And seeing as how I was the only customer in the place at the time, I was pretty sure I’d be in and out in no time.

I was late for my appointment.

El Inka Grill

Written by Scott Joseph on .

El Inka ceviche

El Inka Grill, a Peruvian restaurant in Hunters Creek, has opened a second location in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips at Restaurant Row. It occupies the space that was Greek Flame Taverna.

El Inka’s specialty is ceviche, so my lunch companions and I started with an appetizer of Ceviche Mixto, which included octopus, squid, shrimp and fish marinated in citrus juices along with onions and garlic and a touch of heat from rocoto chilies. The octopus and squid were especially delicious, and I liked the forward lime notes and the hint of cilantro in the taste.