Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review: Petrol Station's Rancor Burger

Exterior of Petrol Station
After months of hearing raves about Petrol Station in the Oak Forest, I finally got the opportunity to come out and see what all the word of mouth, tweets and blogorrhea was about. The place is an old service station that's been refitted as a Canadian/American style pub. In fact the old pump islands have been converted to patio space, covered and uncovered. Pretty good reuse of an old building in my opinion.

One Page, one side
Menu at Petrol Station
Their tap list features a number of local and national craft brews. Their menu is fairly standard pub fare--fries, burgers and the like. Though the Smoky Mac & Cheese caught my attention. I'll have to give It a try next time.

The atmosphere is kitschy and unassuming. There is no signage marking the location at Golf & Wakefield in Oak Forest. Kind of reminiscent of a recent article on Mijune Pak's blog... The clientele are a mixture of Hipsters, Yuppies, InnerLoopers and folks who remind me of run of the mill Joes and Janes from Burnaby, BC (a Vancouver suburb) in Canada. If they had TVs and put on the Blues/Jets game and I might think I was back in Canada...

Interior of Petrol Station
While I sat and waited on my burger--and be warned, it is not fast food--I was able to overhear the conversation of a pair of yuppies about their kids, divorces, 2nd marriages and running/training.

Reflecting Houston's ethnic diversity, their condiment bar has Heinz ketchup, French's mustard, Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce, Cajun Chef Hot Sauce, Asian Srirachi Hot Sauce and UK HP Sauce and Sarson's Malt Vinegar. The HP & Srirachi sauces go well with beef & I love malt vinegar on my French Fries.

The Rancor Burger is a Beauty... (Don Cherry HNIC voice)
Rancor Burger Blueprint:
1/2 lb Angus beef (medium)
Cheddar cheese
Bacon
Fried egg
Lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle & mayo
Served with Pub style natural cut fries.
and I paired it with a Storm King Stout Ale

First of all: WOOOWWW!!! MEEEAAATYYYY! This burger is substantial. It's seasoned mainly with salt, pepper & Worcestershire and not much else. The angus beef is cooked to a true medium with a hot pink centre. It's quite juicy. The bacon is thick and I detect a hint of applewood smoke in it. I love my burgers with a fried egg on top and this one comes with it, over easy. The yolk bursts and oozes. It just adds to the flavour sensations. The lettuce and tomato slices are fresh. It's served on a thick fluffy bun wit salad parts on bottom, but can't contain. The ooze. It's a 4 napkin burger to be sure.

Storm King Stout, HP Sauce
& Sarson's Malt Vinegar 
The pub fries are crisp outside and fluffy inside. Not too salty. Nor too greasy. Natural cut, like I like them and bonus points for having malt vinegar for the fries.

As a craft beer lover, I enjoyed the Storm King Stout from Victory Brewing Co.. This beer is a dark, Russian Imperial Stout beer with a mild start, has a burnt hoppy top note and finishes slightly bitter. It's thinner than Guinness, thicker than Shiner Bock and as Potent as Unibroue (9.10% Alcohol by Volume). It was a perfect complement to the sweetness of the beef and bacon, and the sour twang of the malt vinegar on my fries.

The Foodie Professor's Report Card for Petrol Station:
Rancor Burger: A
Pub Fries: A-
Storm King Stout Ale: A+
Service:
Speed: B+
Friendliness: A-
Atmosphere: A- (Canadian pub style is great; Hipster clients not so much)
Overall Grade: A-

Petrol station is located at
985 Wakefield Dr (at Golf Drive)
Houston, TX 77018
713 957-2875

HOURS
Monday: 5 p.m.-midnight
Tuesday-Friday: 4 p.m.-midnight
Saturday: 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

And remember:
Eat Happy!!!
Zap An, Y'all!!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Event: Jerry Built Burger's Grand Opening Sat. Feb 18th

Houston was named America's Best City for Burgers by Travel and Leisure Magazine in 2011.  And in many ways Houston has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to restaurants and food in general.  Thanks to gourmet places like The Burger Guys and The Burger Palace, Speciality Places like Little Bigs and The Hubcap Grill, and high end chains with awesome burgers like Five Guys, Red Robin, The Counter and Yard House, you can literally find any kind of burger with any kind of toppings, bread, patty or cheese you want here in Houston.  So with that, some might ask:  Why another burger joint in Houston?  Read more and you'll see this is not just another burger joint in Houston.

Jerry Glauser (left) and Brooksy Smith (right)
the Masterminds behind Jerry Built Burgers
JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers, the brainchild of Jerry Glauser and Brooksy Smith, is like an old episode of Seinfeld--the one where George does the opposite of everything he'd normally do--and then he becomes successful.  Both of them were greeting visitors and were very engaging throughout the event, and I appreciate their being available for comment and to answer questions.

Per a recent article in the Bellaire Examiner:
“What we’ve tried to do, and this was Jerry (Glauser), whatever they do at typical fast food, let’s do the opposite,” Smith said. At JerryBuilt, the idea is to make everything visible for the customers starting from the moment you enter. Unlike other burger restaurants, you’ll see your food being prepared when you first walk in and not cash registers.
The concept is a good one, and in today's world where we are concerned about the content of our food, an important one.  Per their website:
Forget antibiotics and growth hormones. Our meat, whether chicken, pork or beef, comes from animals that are exclusively fed a vegetarian diet and never ever given hormones or antibiotics. (Note:  Sourced from Niman Ranch and Meyer Natural Angus) We strive to obtain locally grown and organic iceberg lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes and Bermuda onions for your burger. From produce to condiments, our menu features daily and seasonal items that are organic and locally sourced.
The Spatula as artwork and a mural by Mike Guillory
The location on West Holcombe is a converted Washington Mutual Bank building.  It is very spacious, has very modern furniture and it is also warm (thanks to all the wood accents) and homey touches (i.e. the lighting, the chalkboard style menu board and signage).  The Spatula is a major symbol of Jerry Built and is featured prominently in its decor and accenting.  The entrance to the restaurant has fresh produce on the path to where you order and of note the cash registers are NOT VISIBLE at the counter.  The feel is like a fusion of some Ikea family home mixed with Whole Foods and a touch of Fuddrucker's and In-N-Out Burger.  I like it quite well.  I would also add that a major attribute of this location that Jerry and his son Chaud Glauser told me was that the size and space was designed to be family friendly--large families and groups can come with minimal issues.  The Spatula is a major artwork motif, as is a mural by local artist Mike Guillory.

No Matter Where you are in Jerry Built Burgers, you can see what they're
doing!  Talk about full disclosure!!!
I personally liked the large open windows and open view of the kitchen.  Anyone can see their burger made and the quality of the meat and potatoes in these various areas for viewing.  I also very much liked the Mike Guillory mural depicting attributes of the Houston area.  My kids really liked the state of the art handwashing station near the Coca-cola Freestyle machines at the beverage station.  My son Jason said "OMG!  It's like a Jacuzzi for your hands!"  Major win on the interior design to Brooksy and Jerry!
Dining area, Coca-Cola Freestyle, and high tech Handwashing Station
at JerryBuilt Burgers
 Their menu is fairly straightforward--beautiful in its simplicity.  I was extended an invitation to their grand opening preview.  I brought my kids with me because the description of their two step traditional French fries sounded like something they'd like and both my kids love a good burger, just like their dad.  So without further ado, here are what we sampled during the event:

My Double Bacon Cheeseburger
with Ernie's Sauce
Jerry Built Burgers:
-Organic Beef Patty (kids had singles, I had a double)
-Kids had American Cheese and Heinz Organic Ketchup
-I had Lettuce, Tomato, Pickles (from Wickle's Pickles), 
Bacon, American Cheese and Ernie's Sauce (recommend this sauce highly!)
On a fresh, toasted Three Brothers Bakery Bun


Jerry's Fries:
We tried both Regular and Sweet Potato Fries
which we saw hand made and crinkled, and were cooked
in a traditional 2 step frying method



My son took one bite of his burger and had a huge smile!  I asked how he liked it and said "It'd be three thumbs up if I had a 3rd arm, dad!"  My daughter gobbled up her burger without saying much of anything.  My first bite yielded a sweet and meaty taste with a texture that was softer than the usual sirloin or lean ground beef, but chewier than Wagyu (American Kobe) beef.  The seasoning was mainly salt, black pepper and paprika, with something else that was hard to identify.  Brooksy Smith told me it was turmeric--a spice that is related to Ginger.  It had a savoury twang that melded well with the sweetness of the beef and the salt and pepper.  The Three Brothers bun was fluffy and soaked up the juices of the meat and sauce very well.  I personally liked the Ernie's sauce, which is a mixture of Duke's Mayonnaise, Wickle's Pickles and other fresh organic ingredients.  This burger was much like the Guy's Meat Market Burger I tried last year, and it left me with that satisfied feeling much like Marshall Eriksen had after eating at the Green Door Burger joint: very satisfied but also looking forward to eating one again.

Jason and Helena thoroughly loved the food at Jerry Built Burgers
While I cannot give Jerry Built Burgers a full review/grade until it's in normal operational mode, I will award their burger, fries and overall business model an A+ from the Foodie Professor, pending further review.

I would like to give Jerry Built Burgers several props on working to do things in a good way--ethically right, sustainable and working to support local businesses, as well as be environmentally friendly and community minded.  This kind of sustainable business model is succeeding despite economic hard times and it's one of those concepts that has to be pursued by entrepreneurs as well as supported by customers.  I was very impressed at how all the partners I met were engaged with the customers and stakeholders.  My gut instinct as a food lover and an economist is that this location is going to be very busy, wildly successful and will lead to more locations in the future.  I urge you readers to support this business not only because they are socially responsible, morally ethical and sustainable, but also because they have produced a DAMN GOOD BURGER that you will crave, as I am craving one right now at this writing.
It's not Green Door Burger, but it's how JerryBuilt Burgers will make you feel
after you eat one!
Jerry Built Burgers has two locations.  The Grand Opening was Sat. Feb 18th in their location at:


3501W. Holcombe Blvd.
Houston, Texas 77025
713-664-2874


Hours of operation are
Sunday - Thursday 11:00AM – 9:00PM
Friday - Saturday 11:00AM – 10:00PM

I will be paying them another visit after a month of operation to give them a proper Hank on Food Review.

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

Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Little Bigs Burgers Montrose & Westheimer

A lot of folks were bummed when Krystal Burger closed their only Houston Location on FM 1960 a few years ago.  However, Slider burgers (little mini burgers on sweet Hawaiian style rolls) have been gaining popularity and have been offered by mainstream fast food restaurants like Burger King or Denny's.  Still one of the things that you usually see in a Krystal or White Castle Burger is that they are late night places and those who love them will eat them by the sackful.  Since Lower Montrose is gaining more and more late night locations, and is a place to see and be seen, Little Big's Burgers has opened and looks to be capturing some of that late night Slider Magic in a more gourmet form.  My Candian Friends note:  this is NOT President's Choice Frozen Sliders!!!!

But first, a little background!  Per their website:
Little Bigs (opened in 2009) is a burger joint and wine bar from Bryan Caswell and Bill Floyd, the owners of REEF, the seafood restaurant featuring primarily Gulf Coast catch and recently named The #1 Seafood Restaurant in the U.S. by Bon Appétit Magazine. And the name, Little Bigs? Well, the story goes like this: Bryan Caswell’s father (aka Pops) had two uncles – two uncles who looked nothing alike. One was a really, really big guy who was very soft-spoken; the other was a small, scrappy guy who was a real spitfire. Uncle #1, the big one, was always called Big Little Man and Uncle #2, the little one, was always called Little Big Man – a really big man in a really small package…the real inspiration behind the name for the little burgers with the really big taste.
Little Big's menu includes patties made from beef, spicy chicken, black bean and pulled pork.  They also offer Salads, 4 Minute Fries, milk shakes and Frozen Treats, one called "The Dude" which is a White Russian Milkshake.  After hearing about that one, knowing how WORTHY it is, I'm going to have to ABIDE and decided to pay this place a proper visit.

I came out one afternoon and ordered 3--one of the regular beef, plus one each of the spicy chicken, and pulled pork.  I also ordered their 4 Minute Fries and The Dude.  So without further blathering... Man.... Sir.... here are your food blueprints:



Beef Slider: 
100% Beef, caramlized onions, pickles, American Cheese--I added lettuce, tomato and Srirachi Mayo from the fixings bar


Spicy Chicken Slider:
Spicy Chicken patty, pickles, American Cheese--I added lettuce, tomato and Srirachi Mayo from the fixings bar


Pulled Pork Slider:
Pulled Carolina Style Pork (12 hours smoked), cole slaw,  American Cheese--I added lettuce, tomato and Srirachi Mayo from the fixings bar


4 Minute Fries:
Natural cut potatoes Cooked in house, nice and cruncy


The Dude:
A White Russian Flavoured Milk Shake made with Katz's Coffee, Kahlua and Wine
The Dude Shake, All Three Sliders (beef, chicken, pulled pork) and 4 Min Fries


First of all after one sip of the White Russian shake known as "The Dude"--I'll Abide like Jeffrey Lebowski said, but would like it with real Vodka in it a little better.  Still it was very good as is.

The 3 sliders I had were all equally tasty.  I loved the beef slider with the sweet and tangy caramelized onions.  The spicy crispy chicken slider was tasty and as advertised.  The pulled pork was moist, smokey and sweet.  The 4 minute fries were very crunchy, slightly salty, and tasted as though they'd been cooked in peanut oil.  Some of the best fries I've had in a while at a new restaurant.

I really like their Srirachi Mayonnaise--a LOT.  It has a nice mixture of creamy and spicy.  Gives a very nice kick to all three of their sandwiches.  It also makes a perfect dip for their 4 Minute Fries.

I wanna find one of these here tokens!!!


The Foodie Professor's Report Card for Little Big's Montrose:


Beef Slider: A
Chicken Slider: A-
Pulled Pork Slider: A+
4 Minute Fries: A
The Dude: A+
Service:
            Speed: A
            Friendliness: A
Atmosphere: A- (like a high end fast food joint)
Cleanliness: A-


Overall Grade: Solid A 

There are 2 Locations of Little Bigs (see below).

One last comment:  Little Big's Montrose location is in the same spot as Big Frank's was.  Big Frank's was local hot dog joint that at one time had 3 locations--Montrose, Richmond Ave and Kirby Dr.   I went to the one on Montrose about 21 years ago when I first moved to Houston to attend Rice University.  I had my first authentic Vienna Beef Chicago Style Hot Dog there.  My kid's Uncle was on their Wall of Fame for eating 3 1lb Chicago Style Hot dogs even.  There used to be 3 locations of Big Frank's, but they're now gone to the sands of Houston History.  I'm glad Little Big's has been thriving there for the past few years and I will be back.

Little Bigs – Montrose
703 Montrose Blvd @ Westheimer
713-521-BIGS (2447)

Little Bigs – Hermann Park
1600 Zoo Circle Drive - on the Lake
between the Zoo and the Kinder Train Station
*13-526-0700

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

Monday, February 6, 2012

February Odds and Ends

Greetings Readers!

We're about one week into February 2012 and I've already got 2 great reviews up here for your consideration--Pizaro's Pizza on Memorial/Kirkwood and Latin Bites Café on Woodway.  I've got a couple of other places I'm hoping to visit this month and will provide reviews and photos for your consideration.  In the meantime, a few items I want to share with you along the way.

Home1.  I hope all of my fellow foodies took the opportunity to donate to the Souper Bowl of Caring this past week.  Hunger knows no season and we need to keep on sharing with those in need.  I donated a bag at Kroger last week.  It's amazing how far $10.00 to $20.00 can go on staple items.  This organization is one of the better non-profits out there and given how much we chow down on Super Bowl Sunday, we need to share the wealth.

2.  One of my favourite fellow Foodbloggers, Mijune Pak, posted some more funny stuff:  10 Characteristics of  a Hipster Restaurant.  Based on some of these items (i.e. no signs, random off the beaten track location, no posted hours) there are more than a few places on Washington Avenue or the speakeasy hidden bar called Marfreless here in Houston that qualify!  In any event, as an Economics Professor, I can tell you that some of those attributes are not exactly conducive to a restaurant remaining profitable in the long run.  Just saying....

3.  Update on what happened to BB's Beef and Hot Dog!!!  Per a handwritten sign at the original location in Stafford, it's being re-established as a Food Trailer on the corner of Highway 6 and Bissonnnet today (Feb. 6, 2012).  I for one am relieved as this was the Genuine Chicago Style Dog that won the 2011 Houston Press "Best Hot Dog" Award. I won't be able to get out that way until later this week.  So if any of you readers can get out that way and verify this, please post it in the comments.

Happy Endings HTX4. Speaking of Hot Dogs, Happy Endings, a Vietnamese/Chinese/Filipino Hot Dog Fusion truck (reminds me a bit of Japadog in Vancouver) is reviewed by Katharine Shilcutt of the Houston Press. I think I'll be chasing down a Happy Ending Hot Dog this Friday!!!! (Get your minds out of the gutter, pervs! I mean the food!!!)

5.  Valentine's Day is coming up... get ready for the price of Roses and various dinners out to Octouple!!!  I know it's supply and demand, but it's also highway robbery.  Again, just saying...

6.  Shit Foodie's Say--Hank On Food's Take--is still in the works.  I'll have it put together soon.

Well, that's it for now.  Thanks for all of your readership recently--especially on the Uchi Houston Grand Opening, which is now my #1 most read post.  If you haven't visited Uchi Houston yet, It's a hot ticket.  And hey, take your special someone there for Valentine's Day!!!  Or take them to Happy Endings... either way, It'll be yummy!!!

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

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review: Pizaro's Pizza on Memorial & Kirkwood

Authentic Neapolitan Pizza (a/k/a Pizza Napoletana) are typically made with tomatoes and Mozzarella cheese. They can be made with ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes, which grow on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius, and mozzarella di bufala Campana, made with the milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio in a semi-wild state (this mozzarella is protected with its own European protected designation of origin).

According to the rules proposed by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, the genuine Neapolitan pizza dough consists of wheat flour (type 0 or 00, or a mixture of both), natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer's yeast, salt and water. For proper results, strong flour with high protein content (as used for bread-making rather than cakes) must be used. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer. After the rising process, the dough must be formed by hand without the help of a rolling pin or other machine, and may be no more than 3 millimetres (0.12 in) thick. The pizza must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire.

When cooked, it should be crispy, tender and fragrant. There are three official variants: pizza marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil, pizza Margherita, made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra-virgin olive oil, and pizza Margherita extra made with tomato, mozzarella from Campania in fillets, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
Pizaro's Cook tossing Dough & Authentic Wood Fire Oven
Authentic Neopolitan Pizza that fits that description is available in Houston now at Pizaro's Pizza on Memorial & Kirkwood.  Per their website:
Prior to opening Pizaro's Pizza restaurant, Bill Hutchinson, General Partner, received his certification as a Pizzaiuolo from the Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) organization. Bill trained under the watchful eye of world renown Master Pizza Chef, Peppe Miele. In addition to this training, Bill and his wife and General Partner, Gloria have toured Italian pizzeria's to refine their skills and hone their Italian style pizza recipes.
Although I had yet to read any other reviews, after receiving an online tip about this place and doing a little research, I packed the kids up and we headed over there to give it a try.  We ordered a Margherita Pizza for here (Italian sausage on half) and took a Campania to go.  Without further blathering, here are your Pizza Blueprints:
Marghareta and Compania Pizzas 


Pizza Marghareta:
Crushed Pomodoro tomatoes 
with mozzarella and basil. 
Added Italian Sausage to half of it


Pizza Compania:
Crushed Pomodoro tomatoes 
oven roasted mushroom, artichoke
prosciutto cotto, black olives and mozzarella 


First of all let's talk about the crust: it was fragrant and fresh, crunchy on the outside (some nice charring--wood smoke added some flavour to it) very soft and spongy  on the inside, like baguette almost but thinner. The crust was moist in the center.  My son, who usually leaves the outside crust alone, ate it saying it was "too good to leave behind as pizza bones."

Pizaro's Cheese passed my kids' "String Test"
The Mozzarella cheese was not shredded but placed in medallion cuts throughout the surface of the pizza.  It was very fresh, light and quite stringy.  The mushrooms and olives on the Compnana were fresh and somewhat robust in flavour.  The Basil on both pizzas tasted like it was picked that day.

Full House on a Saturday Night
While the restaurant was busy, the turnover time was rather fast thanks to the heat of their wood fired oven and well-trained staff. The proprietor, Bill Hutchison, was circulating and greeting everyone, in and around keeping the restaurant clean and helping in the kitchen.  This activity by the owner or manager is very important to me--it shows a commitment to good service and that they are fully invested in the business's success.  As an Economics Professor and a big proponent of patronizing local businesses as much as possible, this is something that matters A LOT. They also have a BYOB policy and a corking station for those of you that want to bring your favourite wine. Given how thick the crowd was at 5:45 PM on Saturday Evening, I have a feeling that Pizaro's will be expanding before too long.  Oh, and just so you know, they are CLOSED ON SUNDAYS.

The Foodie Professor's Report Card for Pizaro's Pizza:


Pizza Marghareta: A
Pizza Compana: A+
Service:
              Speed:  A
              Friendliness: A+
Atmosphere: A- (It's in a strip mall, but very homey as you can see)
Cleanliness: A


Overall Grade:  Solid A


Pizaro's Pizza is located at:
14028 Memorial Drive (NW Corner of Kirkwood & Memorial)
Houston, TX 77079
Phone: 281.589.7277

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

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+
Service:
              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
713-229-8369

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