Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review: Latin Bites Café

New Location on Woodway
Peruvian cuisine is one of those that is obscure to many people because there is the tendency to lump it in with other South American Cuisines like Brazilian or a Rodizio setup like in Argentine restauarants.  Truthfully Peruvian cuisine is more like Panamanian cuisine, with many South American Aboriginal influences and even some Asian ones as well.  I've been wanting to try Latin Bites Café ever since fellow foodblogger Mai Pham did a review of it on Fox 26 news (see video towards the bottom).  However, I am not someone that likes driving into Central Downtown if I can help it at all and it's location on Nance Street just wasn't convenient for me because of the very limited parking it had combined with its hug popularity.  More recently I learned that the moved on over to Woodway and Chimney Rock--with ample parking, so on I Friday afternoon I grabbed my camera and my blogging gear and headed on over.

I'd heard many rave reviews about this place on many blogs--especially some good stuff about their Cebichés. Executive Chef and Owner Roberto Castre, Eater Houston's Chef of the Year 2011. The super-talented young Peruvian has made a real name for himself in the Houston Foodie Community. Per Latin Bites' website:
IMG_8581.jpgBorn and raised in Peru, Roberto Castre decided he wanted to be a chef since he was 13 years old. He attended Escuela de Alta Cocina from Los Andes culinary school in Peru, where he learned the basic skills that allowed him to begin his career as a chef. Later he moved to United States, and worked in restaurants in Miami, New York, and Texas, where he worked with renowned chefs such as Stephan Pyles, and Paul Prudhomme.
Over the years, Chef Castre has been able to achieve remarkable tastes thanks to his creativity in the fusion of Latin flavors. His passion for food has allowed him to develop a variety of cooking techniques, from traditional to the latest trends in modern cuisine such as molecular gastronomy. His knowledge of Latin American, Japanese, Chinese, French, Italian and New American Cuisines has been reflected in his style, which pays close attention to the balance between delicate flavor and sophisticated appearance. Those flavors and appearance also have a strong connection with his Peruvian background.
Chef Castre enjoys sharing and promoting the Peruvian gastronomy through his cooking. In 2009 Chef Castre started Latin Bites Catering, a catering company inspired by the exquisite flavors of the Latin American cuisine, which helped him open his first restaurant later in August 2010: Latin Bites Cafe. In January 2012 Latin Bites moved to a larger location in the Heart of Tanglewood, near The Galleria Area in Houston, Texas. Chef Castre’s Food represents the culture, tradition and heritage of one of the richest, most diverse and sophisticated cuisines of the world.
Inca Kola from Peru
Suffice it to say, I was ready for something very special when I went there for lunch.  After consulting with the server (Crista--who did a great job!) I chose to have some Inca Kola (imported from Peru) to drink, some Papas a la Crema for an appetizer, Cebiche Pescador for my entree and some Pisco Sour gelato for a dessert.  So without further blathering, here is the Meal Blueprint:

Papas a la Crema:
Sliced golden potatoes 
 with 3 creamy cheese sauces made of aji rocoto
aji amarillo and cilantro served with boiled quail 
eggs and Peruvian olives.

Cebiche Pescador:
A cebiche mixto (White seasonal fish, shrimp, squid, and octopus) 
with all three ajies: aji amarillo, aji limo and aji rocoto leche de tigre, 
with an extra seasoning of cilantro, ginger and garlic 
served over a bed of lettuce, sweet potato, Peruvian corn, 
Peruvain rosted corn and red onions
(l to r: Papas a la Crema, Cebiche Pescador, Pisco Punch Gelato)
A fine lunch at Latin Bites Café
First of all the beverage:  The Inca Kola looks a bit like a cross between Red Bull and Mountain Dew.  The flavour is more like a fruity nutty taste than the usual darker Colas we drink in North America.  It even had almost a coconut essence to it.  Worth a try if you're not wanting a glass of wine or a Pisco Sour.

The Papas a La Crema is served cold.  The aji sauces are very creamy and colourful.  The yellow is more sweet, the red is a bit acidic and the green is a little spicy.  The potatoes are soft and buttery.  It was a very satsifying dish while I waited for the main event.

Cebiche (a/k/a Ceviche or Seviche) is a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of the Americas, especially Central and South America, and the Philippines. It is the National Dish of Panama.  The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chilli peppers. Additional seasonings such as onion, salt, coriander/cilantro, and pepper may also be added. Ceviche is usually accompanied by side dishes that complement its flavors such as sweet potato, lettuce, corn, or avocado. As the dish is not cooked with heat, it must be prepared fresh to minimize the risk of food poisoning. The origin of ceviche is disputed. Possible origin sites for the dish include the western coast of north-central South America,or in Central America.] Other coastal societies such as the Polynesian islands of the south Pacific are also attributed the invention of the plate. The Spanish, who brought from Europe citrus fruits such as lime, could have also originated the plate with roots in Moorish cuisine. However, the most likely origin of the plate lies in the area of present-day Peru--a nation on the West Coast of South America, due south of Ecuador and Southwest of Colombia.

The Cebiche Pescador was FANTASTIC!!! It was colourful, it was full of flavour--the lime juice was fresh and slightly sour, the spices were fresh and fragrant, the lettuce was crunchy, the corn roasted and semicrunchy, the yams sweet and chewy and the whole gaggle of tastes were a Fiesta in my mouth!  I've had  cebiche before, and I can honestly say that this is the best Cebiche I've had outside of Panama.  This is a real winner and if you've not had Cebiche before, you are missing out if you don't go to try the Cebiches at Latin Bites Café

A little information about the Pisco Sour now: The national origin of the pisco sour is debated. Both Chile and Peru lay claim to the drink. In both countries, the variety of lime used is what North Americans would call Persian lime but Peruvians call simply "lemons". In the United States, the drink is usually made with commonly available Lisbon or Eureka lemons. With the increased availability of Pisco (a South American Grape Brandy) and regional bitters outside South America, the Pisco Sour, like the Mojito and Caipirinha, has increased in popularity in the United States. Since 2003, Peru has a National Pisco Sour Day which is celebrated on the first weekend of February (right on time with my review!)  I had mine made into a gelato that was sour, slightly sweet, had a wonderful lime flavour, a slight boozy kick and was a perfect palate cleanser for after lunch.  

The Foodie Professor's Report Card for Latin Bites Café:

Inka Cola: A
Papas a la Crema: A
Cebiche Pescadora: A+++
Pisco Sour Gelato: A+
              Speed: A
              Friendliness: A+
Atmosphere: A (colourful, urban chic)
Cleanliness: (A for dining area/kitchen, A- on Men's Restroom)

Overall Grade: Solid A+

As Promised:  Mai Pham's old video review here:

Latin Bites Café is located at:
5709 Woodway Dr.
Houston, TX 770587

And Remember:
Eat Happy!!!
Zao an, Y'all!!!

1 comment:

Berrak John said...

Good food blog. You define different dishes burger and etc.

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