100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 68, Ceviche at Sirena Seafood

This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

The relatively new Sirena Seafood truck -- run by a Mexican expat who worked at Hugo's for years -- features not just Mexican seafood classics, but a few updated twists, too. Witness the recent skate wing I had there, the delicate fish softly sautéed in nothing more than butter, salt and pepper then served over chilled orzo pasta with a few golden rounds of seared squash. It was beguilingly simple and oh-so-delicious.

But even though the skate wing was terrific, it's Sirena's ceviche that I'll be coming back for all summer. The cool seafood cocktail is quick and easy to grab for lunch, light on your stomach (unless you do what I did below...) and wonderfully refreshing. During my most recent visit, the ceviche was made with plump nuggets of fresh Gulf grouper -- you can get shrimp ceviche anywhere, after all -- in a tart lime juice with plenty of crisp veggies and herbs: tomatoes, red onions, jalapeños, cucumbers and cilantro.

The ceviche is clearly quite tasty on its own and needs no additional garnishment. However, if you're a heat-seeker like me, Sirena has a huge array of hot sauces to choose from. At the owner, Maria's, recommendation, I chose the bottle of El Yucateco that held a red habanero salsa. It was bracing and bright and sweet -- everything I love in a hot sauce -- but the idiot inside me decided that it wasn't quite hot enough.

Maria warned me that the other bottle of El Yucateco -- the one that held a smoke-scented, forest green sauce -- was far hotter. I tasted it and was hooked; it was as smoky as its promising charred scent had foretold, with that same sweet, beam-of-light brightness that you get from habanero salsas. I poured a good tablespoon of it on top of the teaspoon of red El Yucateco that was already on my ceviche, then ate it all with relish.

Fifteen minutes later, at the office, I began to feel drunk and woozy. The endorphin rush of the combined hot sauces was hitting me hard. I chowed some Tums, to no avail. I whined pitifully to our editorial assistant, who -- as well he should -- had no sympathy for my plight. I staggered back to my desk, put my head down and prayed for swift release from the growing supernova in my stomach. I think I saw the face of God. And as quickly as it came on, it was gone.

I can't wait to get back to Sirena. This time, however, I think I'll stick with one hot sauce at a time.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F. No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood

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