Photos: Ceviche Project's Indulgent Pop-Up At WeHo's Skybar
Five fresh courses, five unique cocktails and a night of conversation and gorgeous views are at the heart of The Ceviche Project.
Ceviche Project is a pop-up dinner series that revolves around ceviche, a dish typically made with raw fish marinated in citrus juice. The Ceviche Project throws a twist on the traditional Latin American cuisine in the form of a five-course meal, plus cocktail pairings.
Ceviche Project is run by Octavio and Shannon Olivas, a husband-and-wife team. Octavio Olivas told LAist that he had worked as a lawyer while he and Shannon tested out their recipes over the course of two years at their home in Los Feliz. They threw their first pop-up at Side Bar Covell in Los Feliz on November 11, 2011. A year and a half ago, Olivas ditched the lawyer trade to focus on his family and Ceviche Project.
"Needless to say, we've stepped up our plating game considerably since [our first pop-up], but little else about the formula—fresh seafood, wine and cocktail pairings and a vintage cumbia soundtrack—has changed: it just works!," he said.
Now set at the scenic Skybar at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood, this indulgent dining experience takes place at a relaxed place, allowing conversation with fellow guest while enjoy sweeping views of the city. Olivas said he sees the venue as "one of those quintessential summer spots" and enjoys serving meals "poolside under the stars on the Sunset Strip."
We checked out August's Ceviche Project, where each dish was paired with a cocktail made with Deleon Tequila. Five tequila cocktails might seem like a lot, but the pacing of the meal—where each dish is individually plated on site by the Olivas and company—allowed them to be enjoyed slowly.
Michael Sanchez, Marketing & Programming at Mondrian, of the Mondrian Hotel, told LAist, "The drinks ease guests into conversations naturally as each dish is a topic of conversation." It's also unique from other Skybar events, like boozy, weekend pool parties where guests dance in bright sunlight, or Monday evening's Dive-In Theatre.
Our meal began with three oysters and the White Unicorn, a cocktail both bitter and sweet made with Deleon Platinum, Suze bitters, Cocci apéritif wine and orange oils. If that sounds tasty to you, sadly you're out of luck. Ceviche Project never repeats a particular dish, which is actually easier than it sounds, Olivas said, because there are so many types of fish and shellfish he can use, and then pair with different fruits, veggies, chiles, nuts and herbs. He enjoys experimenting with different combinations and testing them out on his family and friends—a tough job for them, we're sure.
"There are a few basic elements I like to preserve in each dish—freshest fish, seasonal produce, presentation matters, and flavor rules above all else. But aside from these, I don't follow many rules when composing my ceviche dishes," Olivas said. "I'm drawn to it from my upbringing in Mexico, where I used to prepare ceviche on the boat with my fisherman father, but my current-day experiences both traveling and living and eating in L.A. have all had an impact on my approach to ceviche making, which really pays homage to many cultures and takes inspiration from a lot of different cuisines."
When Olivas isn't cooking, he's researching, testing out new recipes or getting some exercise in by rock climbing. He and Shannon are hoping to open their own brick and mortar restaurant, and are also planning pop-ups around the world including one on October 15 in Mexico City, where Olivas was born.
The next Ceviche Project is on September 25 at 8 p.m. Skybar is located at 8440 Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood inside the Mondrian Hotel. 21+, tickets are $125. There will be a final Ceviche Project for the season on October 22.