2/29/2012 10:34:00 AM

The Best Thing We Ate Last Night: Picca's Halibut Ceviche

And what better way to wrap up our visit to LA's Peruvian hotspot Picca - the joint was jumpin' when we stopped by, but it was a friendly crowd and at least half the space was set aside for walk-ins, making it super easy to snag a seat at the bustling bar. The menu was epic, with more options than a New Jersey diner (thankfully, the options here were much, much better than what you'd see on those multipage tomes).

After consulting with the bartender, we settled on ceviche crocante - they had a number of ceviches on the list, but this one came highly recommended by both the staff and the tipsy couple sitting next to us (who also offered us a glass of wine, as it goes). When we saw the dish - we were a little taken aback. With golden brown calamari bursting from the bowl, we weren't sure that we received the right thing. Well, when we dug in, we got it. The citrus-laden fish was hidden under that squid, bathed in a flavorful orange sauce along with tart lime. It was kind of like a ceviche casserole, but the citrus really worked to balance the fried batter (just think of the healthy squeeze of lemon you normally give an order of calamari). And the fish itself? Swoon. It's no wonder the eatery was short listed by the James Beard Foundation in the Best New Restaurant category. That's going to be one tough race.

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