Saturday, November 3, 2012

Review: Alma Cebiche and Bar

A few months ago I tried Latin Bites Café on Woodway and was treated to some wonderful Peruvian Cuisine.  I haven't had any since then and was given word from a couple of fellow Food Bloggers about Alma Cebiche and Bar in the Energy Corridor.  Peruvian Cuisine is gradually gaining some traction here in the United States--Cebiche (aka Ceviche) has especially become popular after Anthony Bourdain made trips to Panama, Ecuador and Peru to try different versions of this unique and tasty seafood dish, which is the national dish of more than 3 Central and South American Nations.  Wanting to see what else there was to try besides Cebiche, I did a little research, cleared a Friday lunch and made may way over to Eldridge.  In return for my trip, I was treated to a relaxing slow paced lunch of well plated foods that were a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

Prepare to be assimilated,
Peruivan style! 
Chef David Guerrero, formerly of Samaa Steakhouse, clearly spent some time in creating a Modern Bistro with several South American accents mixed in with some very bold art.  You're greeted by a lit up nude Female figure that made me think of Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyageur.  The walls have different modern paintings that convey the sense of human faces and bodies in an abstract sense, all in earth tones.  All of this is apparently the work of Houston Artist Javier Duran, who was born in Bolivia.  Many Peruvian artifacts are also on display.  I found the environment inspiring and calming at the same time.  As Seven of Nine would so aptly say "Resistance is futile!" 

Corvina a la Chorillana
After perusing their menu, I decided rather than eat another Cebiche, I went with a different seafood dish--the Corvina a la Chorillana.  This is a pan seared Peruvian white fish, served with calamari rings,  potatoes, tomatoes, onions, with Peruvian aji mirasol-aji amarillo sauce.  This dish was beautifully plated and had a nice mixture of savoury and slightly warm spices, as well as a mixture of delicate textures and soft chewiness.  I especially want to note that the Calamari was very tender and not rubbery as it comes out at times.  The chef did a wonderful job preparing it.  It was very nice to eat this dish slowly and experience all the flavours and textures it supplied.  Quite good and one I highly recommend should you come by.  And yes, you will come by.  

Quinoa Chicha
I developed a fondness for Inca Cola after having it before at Latin Bites Café.  It has a unique flavour, and though it is the fluorescent colour of Red Bull, it doesn't pack the shock that Red Bull packs at all.  It tastes a lot like a Guarana based soda called Josta that they no longer make.  After finishing this beverage I switched to a Quinoa Chicha--a drink made in South America that usually is made from corn or some other kind of grain and/or fruit--and can be fermented or not.  I chose the non-fermented variety.  This beverage was milky white, had a semi gelatenous texture, and the flavour reminded me of Horchata with a little hit of cinnamon in it.  It's very different from the typical soft drinks or teas we have in the US.  I don't know if everyone would like it, but I found it a nice change from the usual.  

\Although I don't usually do dessert, I decided to have a house blend of coffee (it was very rich and roasty) with a dessert called Pionono--vanilla sponge cake, dulche de leche, hazelnuts, lemon, and rocoto de gele.  It was also garnished with petals that I think may have been hibiscus.  It was beautifully plated--a real work of art, this dessert was fabulous.  It was not overly sweet, had a delicious mixture of textures and tastes, the lemon was a tart contrast to the caramel and there was some kind of heat coming from a spice I could not quite identify.  The mixture of sweet, tart, crunchiness and heat was wonderful.  I consumed it slowly and savoured every different taste and texture it provided my mouth.  Pionono is a truly unique dessert and again, one I would highly recommend for those with adventurous palates.  

The service was friendly, timely, not too intrusive and made callbacks in a proper time.  A manager came out and greeted me at one point and asked how I was enjoying the food--immensely was my response.  The server was also conscientious as some of the crowd were clearly business lunchers and asked if I was in a time crunch or if I was having a leisurely lunch, and paced his service accordingly.  This was a very intelligent way to handle service and I give the server much respect for thinking to ask that and adjust on the fly.  

Report Card for Alma Cebiche and Bar:
There she is again... 
     Corvana a la Chorillana: A+
     Pionono: A+
     Inca Cola: A
     Quinoa Chicha; A-

     Speed: A
     Friendliness: A+

     Dining Area; A+
     Kitchen (visible from dining area): A
     Men's Room: A

Atmosphere (Like a Modern Art Gallery fused with a South American museum exhibit): A 

Overall Grade: A+

Alma Cebiche and Bar is located at
1275 Eldridge Pkwy #100 (one block North of Briar Forest)
Houston, TX 77077

Hours of Operation:
M to F 11 AM to 2 PM, 5 PM to 10 PM
Saturday 11 AM to 10 PM
Sunday Closed (Brunch Menu coming soon)

And remember to Eat Happy, Y'all!!!

Alma Cebiche + bar on Urbanspoon

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