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The Gossiping Gourmet: A marriage of coastal cuisines

September 08, 2010|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz

The best way to describe the food at Raya might be "Mexasian." The new restaurant at the Ritz Carlton has been advertised as Latin American or Pan-Latin coastal cuisine, but that doesn't explain the presence of miso black cod with kabayaki sauce, tuna tataki salad with lemon ginger wasabi dressing or ingredients like yuzu, daikon radish, sriracha sauce or kaffir lime leaves. So we have chosen to redub it.

There are a few straight Mexican dishes like lobster tacos or the mushroom or beef huaraches; however, most of the dishes combine elements of Asian and Latin American ingredients. Coastal cuisine here seems to mean the coast of Japan but the blending of these cuisines works in a most fortuitous and flavorful fashion. This unique fusion is the brainchild of restaurateur Richard Sandoval and is executed by Chef Greg Howe

The long narrow dining room, now separated from the main corridor by a sculptured hedge of metal leaves, has a breathtaking ocean vista from the lofty, arched, floor-to-ceiling windows. As the sun sets, translucent curtains soften the light and candles are lit at the tables. The room is both elegant and casual. We relaxed in the comfortable upholstered armchairs, perused the menu and watched the sun drop into the sea.

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A ceviche sampler lets you taste both of their offerings, tuna and shrimp. Although traditional ceviches are raw fish cooked by the acid of limes, these break all the rules. The Hawaiian tuna was a cocktail with chunks of silky, jewel-like cubes of ruby fish in a bath of soy sauce with jicama, red onions cilantro, avocado, chili, yuzu and a garnish of puffed rice cereal. The tuna was delicious but the soy sauce was heavy handed and the puffed rice was amusing but odd. The coconut shrimp ceviche had plump rock shrimp cooked in spicy, sweet coconut milk accented with mint and black sesame seeds. The delicately nuanced broth was the star of the dish. The two generous portions were served with plantain and yucca (cassava) chips. The salty yucca chips were as addictive as Lay's. The crispy plantains however, were easy to pass up.

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