When it’s this damn hot outside, the thought of eating food that has actually been cooked isn't really appetizing. Fresh, light dishes dominate summer menus, and that’s probably the only reason we’ve survived here for so long. At Proof + Pantry, the menu offerings are generally pretty substantial, packed with hearty fare such as bone marrow and a whole freakin’ $45 chicken. But if you need something light — and you decidedly do — the cobia crudo is an excellent choice.
Chef Kyle McClelland is always tinkering with his crudo recipe, and each time you stop in, it’s going to be a little different. Depending on what looks good from the purveyors, McClelland will substitute fruits and vegetables on what seems like a daily basis. Sometimes, you come in and enjoy the cobia with a little fresh lime juice. Other times, it’s being served with little bits of pineapple or lime supremes. Whatever he’s thrown in there, though, you know it’s going to be stellar.
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At present, McClelland is calling his crudo a “ceviche,” but it is totally a crudo. Instead of being chopped into tiny bits and tossed with the ingredients, the small, succulent little bites of cobia are sliced thinly and arranged in a neat circle. Finely diced cucumber, celery and pineapple sit on top, adding crispness and freshness to every bite. A vivid green vegetable-based broth, enriched with a little oil, pools around the crudo, adding balance and acidity to an already perfect dish.
It doesn’t hurt that it’s also a gorgeous dish. Once you’ve seen the plate, you’re going to immediately want to eat the whole thing in two minutes flat. A garnish of microgreens and edible flowers is equally fresh, even if the stems are a little annoying and less than aesthetically appealing once they start floating around in that broth. Ultimately, though, this dish is going to be long gone before you’ve even got a chance to critique its presentation.
Once you’ve finished with those six little bites of fish, you’re going to have to physically restrain yourself from slurping down the broth from the bowl. Fortunately, the server is happy to bring you a little bread to sop it all up, and you absolutely should. When paired with a refreshing cocktail, this crudo makes you feel you might just be able to survive summer after all. It's one of the more budget-friendly dishes on the menu — it’s $18 — so you’ll be able to keep the air conditioning running at home.
Undoubtedly, by the time you’ve read this, McClelland has already switched up his recipe. Perhaps he’s added gold flakes or truffles of some kind, because this is a dish that is all about light indulgence. A plate doesn’t have to be full of cream and butter to feel decadent, and this crudo is proof. If you’re planning to share this appetizer-sized portion with others, go ahead and order two or you’ll end up stabbing your dinner date for the last little bite of fish.