By Sara Liss
The goods: Earlier this year La Cofradia, a classy Coral Gables spot serving Peruvian cuisine, decided to revamp its fine dining digs in light of the sagging economy. They shut the restaurant down for renovations and reopened a few weeks ago with a more affordable, casual approach calling the new space La Cofradia Ceviche Bar. Changes are subtle, but effective. Gone are the starched white tablecloths and in their place dark wood tables and suede chairs to complement soaring cathedral ceilings and arched windows. The redesign includes a new bar with high top tables and bar stools perfect for sipping cocktails while sampling the restaurant’s namesake marinated raw fish dishes.
They’ve also introduced a daily happy hour from 4:30-7:30pm Tuesday to Friday where $5 gets you small plates of ceviches, tiraditos, anticuchos and croquettes while wine, beer and cocktails (including the restaurant’s specialty pisco sours) go for $5 to $7 each.
The grub: Modern Peruvian cuisine with Mediterranean influences. There’s a renewed emphasis on ceviches and tiraditos but there are also traditional Peruvian dishes like lomo saltado and anticuchos to choose from. Prices have come down a bit to go with the casual atmosphere; ceviches and tiraditos are $13-$15, salads and starters about $12 and mains $17-26.
Lima-born chef Jean Paul Desmaison fuses his Peruvian heritage with Italian influences in dishes like the ricotta tortelloni in huancaina sauce (a traditional Peruvian cheese sauce spiked with yellow chilis) and a shrimp and butternut squash risotto. Start off with a trio of ceviches so you can sample the tuna in oriental sauce, corvina marinated in bright yello aji amarillo and the traditional version of diced corvina, scallops and octopus marinated in “Leche de Tigre,” a fiery mix of lime, chili, celery and garlic. Follow that with the restaurant’s signature slow braised pork and grapes and shrimp anticucho spiced with black mint. For a hearty main go for the beef tenderloin saltado over the Parmesean cheese risotto or for something lighter opt for the seared tuna with silky butternut squash puree. Desserts include a lucuma mousse, made with the delicately-flavored Peruvian fruit and alfajores, buttery sandwich cookies filled dulce de leche that melt in your mouth.
Verdict: La Cofradia has gone casual with lower prices and a handsome ceviche bar making it a great happy hour or date spot.
La Cofradia Ceviche Bar, 160 Andalusia Ave, (305) 914-1300.