South of the border in grand style at Ceiba

D.C. Chef of the Year Jeff Tunks has put down the ginger, wasabi and sake in favor of tamarind, lime and rum.

After winning numerous accolades for the Asian-inspired fare of his second downtown restaurant, Ten Penh, Tunks decided that Latin American cuisine would be his next challenge.

“These things are chef-driven, and Jeff really got into the food,” said Gus DiMillo, one of three managing partners of Passion Food Hospitality, along with Tunks and David Wizenberg. “We’ve been talking about this for two years and developing it for two years.”

Ceiba’s glassed-in dining room features items brought back from South America.

Part of the process for the trio included extensive travel in Mexico and Brazil, taking in not only the flavors but the colors, designs and aesthetic. They returned to Washington with floor tiles and mosaics from Mexico and lights, furniture and tableware from Brazil.

They also returned with a name, inspired by the ceiba tree, which figures prominently in Mayan myth. The tree also is a motif in the restaurant’s d