By Deirdre Bourdet
Pica Pica Bar has opened in Napa’s Oxbow Public Market! I was delighted enough to hear that they would be serving ceviche with wine and beer, but news of their ridiculously awesome happy hour made me make haste to the comfortable leather bar stools at the south end of the Oxbow building. From 3-6pm on weekdays, all alcoholic drinks (white or red sangria, most of the ten draft beers, Venezuelan-style fruit juices called batidos, and your choice of red, white or rose wine) are $3, and a varied assortment of ceviches and corn arepa “sliders” are also yours for the same price.
My first visit there I tried both the salmon and the whitefish (tilapia) ceviche, which arrived on a fun little platter with marinated jicama sticks and a miniature cup of gigantic corn nuts. Both versions contained generous hunks of perfectly marinated fish, and a flavorful rainbow of slivered bell peppers, red onions, and herbs. The salmon version went for the fresh dill approach, while the whitefish hung its hat on cilantro. On another visit I tried out the bay scallop ceviche–full of plump, luscious scallops and another variation on the aromatic garnishes. Rumor has it that the shrimp ceviche is the best of all, but so far I’ve failed to make it over there when it’s both done marinating and not yet sold out. Go figure.
With the ceviches come a complimentary little cone of housemade popcorn, seasoned with what one server told us was his own not-so-secret spice blend of ginger, truffle salt, sugar, and a half dozen other fragrant delights. Surprisingly, both the popcorn and the corn nuts were magic with the fish, bringing fabulous texture contrast as well as a big hit of extra salt and spice.
If you can go just one night per week, make it Tuesday, when the bar does $1 ceviche shots for locals’ night. It doesn’t get better than that. Pica Pica Bar