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LA Times Critic Gets ‘Fireworks’ From Exciting Silver Lake Seafood Spot

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Plus, the wonders of Ellie’s in Long Beach

Razor clam ceviche on ice in a bowl, from Ceviche Project.
Razor clam ceviche at Ceviche Project
Jakob N. Layman

LA Times co-critic Bill Addison is traveling the world this week, but that hasn’t stopped him from filing a story on Silver Lake’s own Ceviche Project. The longtime pop-up run by Octavio Olivas has newly found a small and very permanent space right off Hyperion in Silver Lake, a tiny glassed-in room where Olivas can share his seafood (and his stylish jackets) with the world.

So far, Addison and others are taking notice. In fact, says Addison, the summertime restaurant is “ideal for hiding from the heat and the world,” especially when there are fresh scallops:

I’m even fonder of the scallops on the half shell; too few restaurants present them in their purest state like this, when their flavor is buttery sweet and their yielding texture is as satisfying to bite through as a gumdrop.

And then there are the tostadas:

His composed tostadas, creativity-wise, set off the loudest fireworks. They’re monuments to fish built on pebbly-textured, undulating fried corn tortillas made in Guadalajara. (“I tried for years to make better tostadas myself,” he says. “I can’t.”) He builds a kanpachi tostada, arguably the menu’s centerpiece, over a thick smear of what Olivas calls avocado mousse; it’s too tart and restrained in seasoning to be labeled “guacamole.” On top he sculpts the fish around piles of trout roe, grapefruit crescents, nasturtium leaves and radish sprouts.

The “snug” counter and “succinct” wine list only help at Ceviche Project, where the idea is to be offered only a few simple choices, but to revel in their glory once arrived — especially on a hot summer day.

Pasta at Ellie’s in Long Beach, with burrata and basil, on a plate.
Pasta from Ellie’s in Long Beach

Meanwhile, the Times has also turned (temporarily) to Gustavo Arellano for reviews with Patricia Escárcega on maternity leave. The former OC Weekly reviewer Arellano took to Ellie’s in Long Beach for a series of meals that featured “no bad orders,” which is always a good sign.

The food itself leans Italian, though this being Southern California there are endless Latin American and Asian influences throughout under chef Jason Witzl, who “delivers in the elegance and flavor department.”

The fermented Japanese citrus-pepper paste yuzu kosho serves as the spicy-tart base for Witzl’s most recent seasonal crudo, made of scallops and blood orange slices; it’s refreshing like an Aperol spritz. Egyptian dukkah — a pistachio dip — imparts nuttiness to roasted cauliflower; a fine salsa verde adds heat to his cavatelli and cuts the richness of the mixed-in chicken confit and guanciale. He smears a pear mustardo on a hefty, succulent pork chop, a bohemian lift for a workingman’s feast

Elsewhere, the meatballs are “airy,” and the brunch is magnificent, as are the unique desserts. The only drawback? “Witzl has the talent but ultimately offers no real step forward in the Southern California food scene,” says Arellano. He hopes for more boundary-breaking at a soon-to-come next door tasting menu restaurant from Witzl.

Ceviche Project. 2524 12 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, CA.

Ellie’s. 204 Orange Ave., Long Beach, CA.

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