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Five Sinful Ceviches

Hint for your late-summer picnics: take food that is light, unpretentious and simple to prepare yet exquisitely yummy. What better choice, then, than ceviche, the Latin American seafood sensation in which shrimp or fish chunks marinated in lime juice are piled onto a tostada or some similar sort of edible bread? All county Latin American seafood restaurants make a version of the dish, but visit the following if you want to learn from the marine masters:

• PRIMOS MARISCOS, On the corner of First and Hesperian streets, (714) 543-5560, Santa Ana. The lonchera(lunch truck) makes seafood with a Nayarit twist, meaning the fresh and sour taste for which the coastal Mexican state's cuisine is famous. Most impressive is the ceviche ($1.50): so many chunks of shrimp or fish teeter off a large tostada it's only a matter of time before the Santa Ana PD cites Los Primos Mariscos for overcrowding. OSTIONERÍA BAHÍA, 4429 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 538-8271. In a kind of culinary clairvoyance, the Ostionería Bahía's chefs build a ceviche ($2) that follows each puckering bite of lemon or lime with a chunk of chile serrano: suddenly the insuperable sourness is relieved as the chile triggers the release of endorphins in your brain. • MARISCOS LICENCIADO #2, 1052 N. State College, Anaheim, (714) 776-3415. Most restaurants content themselves with an additional douse of sour over their ceviche. The lemon juice in Mariscos Licenciado's version ($1.60), however, cascades off the tostada and pools on the cardboard plate, resting there until your tongue licks it clean. Yikes! INKA GRILL, 23600 Rockfield Blvd., Ste. 2K, Lake Forest, (949) 587-9008; also in Costa Mesa, (714) 444-4652. Peruvian ceviche is better than Mexican—not as overpoweringly sour, much fresher, and served with a sweet potato that makes the dish display the most impressive contrast found outside an Ansel Adams photo. Owner Ana Montoya-Ives makes a version of Peruvian ceviche ($9) with good reason: ceviche is native to Peru. • COSTA BRAVA, 727 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8272. Ignore Costa Brava's cheesy nautical theme and order the onion-heavy ceviche ($2). It's served in a beer stein instead of a tostada, which might explain the groggy great stupor you'll be in afterwards.

 
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