El Buzo- Cocoa Beach - 4.275 Stars
El Buzo, in Spanish means The Diver. They first opened in Peru after Owner/Chef Bruno became a national diving champion. Thankfully, it didn't take a miracle to get "The Diver" out of his native Peru and onto Floridian soil, it just took a buyer for his original El Buzo restaurant in Lima about 20 years ago. If not for this, Chef Bruno never would have been able to relocate to Orlando, FL and open up his new El Buzo Restaurant. After becoming established as a wonderful example of Peruvian cooking there, Chef Bruno was able to open a new "sister" store in Cocoa Beach. As with the original establishment in Peru, and the American mother ship in O-town, the new El Buzo specializes in fare from the sea and continues to use the recipes Bruno brought with him from Peru a lifetime ago.
As the new place Beach side is situated in a Publix anchored shopping center (honestly, what isn't?) it was hard to give any credence to what the parking lot may or may not indicate awaited me inside. Stepping into Chef Bruno's new abode one immediately feels at home. The fans twirl slowly like Rick's Cafe American and the interior is well lit, sparkly clean, run with the efficiency of a Navy Destroyer and still had that "new restaurant" smell. And, just as importantly, unlike their cousin's from Brazil, Brasas Grill in Cocoa, I found the understated techno style here to not be as offensive as the blaring unpleasant crap Brasas was inundating their patrons with at dinner. It's called background music for a reason people!
After being seated and handed a menu, our waiter, Carlos, soon approached to see what he could do for us. Carlos was absolutely amazing in every way and I found him to be much too intelligent and personable to be working in the service industry and hope it is just a stepping stone for him to go on to bigger and better things. I could wane on for days about Carlos, but that would be skipping the food review and that is the reason we are here in the first place. To that end, I placed an order with Carlos for some of their Ceviché Mixto (fish, calamari and shrimp) and a plate of Lomo Saltado (marinated strips of skirt steak).
When a place becomes well known, or even famous, for a specialty one expects it to be the best example of said specialty to be found. I was not let down by El Buzo's Ceviché Mixto. Specializing in food from the oceans for over 20 years has lead to the creation of some of the best, if not the best Ceviché I have ever had the pleasure of stuffing in my face. While not of the highest caliber ingredients, the flavor was spectacular and I found the citrus to be perfectly paid in the raw elements and the corn nuts are made from real corn. This is 5 Star Ceviché all day long. If you are ordering Ceviché anyplace else, stop doing so and start ordering it here. It is that good. After starting off on such a gastronomical high I turned toward the Lomo Saltado with gusto. My first reaction was, "Egads!" I then wondered if I had somehow been transported to another restaurant. Looking around, I assured myself I was still seated at my table within the confines of El Buzo. I then re-focused on the dish in front of me. Where the Ceviché was flavored faultlessly, the skirt steak left much to be desired. It wasn't that the meat was bad, or freezer burned or anything like that, it just fell flat on the palate. The potatoes served alongside were on par with the meat as they were of the frozen junk variety and as such also quite flavorless. Serve fresh cut fries, it's all I'm saying! The saving grace of this dish was the perfectly steamed rice found next to the frozen fries.
The Big Boy says, "Go for the Ceviché and stay for that Casablanca feel. White suit optional #iamthebigboy #bigboydiningout