Monthly Cebiche Specials at Latin Bites Cafe

Categories: On the Menu

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Photos by Mai Pham
Cebiche Serrano: In honor of the highlands of Peru: Fish Cebiche with Huacatay Herb
Latin Bites Cafe is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, but I don't get there as often as I'd like, so last week, when Chef Roberto Castre posted on his Facebook page that he had created a new cebiche menu - to be served for one week only - in honor of National Cebiche Day in Peru, I had the perfect excuse to venture back.

Armed with three bottles of wine, I arrived at 6 p.m. this past Saturday evening, the only spot they had available other than 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Having just returned from New York City, I felt some deja-vu taking in the tiny narrow dining room. Despite the early hour, the dining room was at full capacity with a mix of cultured-looking casual-to-well-dressed patrons, many brandishing glasses of wine and engaged in lively conversation. No one seemed to mind how close the tables were to each other, or the fact that the air conditioning could have been stronger, or the people spilling in from the front door with no place to stand but in the middle of the restaurant.

"I feel so bad when I have to tell people we don't have any reservations available," lamented Rita Castre, one of the owners and also the hostess for the night. "We want to accommodate everyone but we do not have enough space. Even our patio is booked for the evening," she said. The Castres are looking for a larger space but haven't found the right spot as of yet.

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Everyone sits cozily next to each other. Chef Roberto Castre working hard behind the counter
"We couldn't add more seats even if we wanted to, because the city won't let us," Castre continued. "Roberto doesn't even have enough room to store the food - he has to buy everything fresh every day, and it's hard on him."

Thankful for scoring our much-coveted reservation, I proceeded to order all five of the special cebiches on the menu, adding a pappas a la crema (potatoes with Peruvian-flavored rocoto pepper, aji amarillo, and cilantro cream sauces), and a pollo a la parilla, or grilled chicken, for one of my dining companions who didn't like raw fish.

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Cebiche de Mango: Salmon ceviche with rocoto pepper and mint
The first three cebiches were a big hit. The Cebiche de Mango, made of diced mango with rocoto pepper and mint-infused salmon, was served in a large martini glass with some Peruvian "choclo" corn and sweet potato on the side. Just what we needed on a hot summer day, the fresh mango was sweet, and the sauce had a good spicy kick that left the palate burning for more. My friend and I enjoyed this with a light glass of slightly sweet bubbly Moscato d'Asti.

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Tiradito Nikkei, cucumber, tuna sashimi, red fish roe, wonton crisps in a lemon soy oyster mirin sesame sauce
Next came the Tiradito Nikkei, a Japanese-themed dish of sliced cucumbers, tuna sashimi and thin wonton crisps garnished with red fish roe and served atop a lemon soy sauce with oysters, mirin, and sesame oil. It looked Nobue-esque, and it tasted just as good. The crispness of the cucumber and wonton crisps counterbalanced the softer texture of the tuna; each bite was perfection. We paired this with a champagne-like light and bubbly French sparkling Fleuraison Blancs de Blancs.

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Pappas a la crema: Golden potato with rocoto pepper, aji amarillo, and cilantro cream sauce
At this point, the pappas a la crema came out, and I watched with delight at the look on my friends' faces when they tried it. "I can't believe that's just a potato!" my friend, a police officer who's more used to steaks than cebiche, told me. "Those sauces...I wish I could take some home for my baked potato, but I know it wouldn't taste the same." I totally agree. I don't know what they do to those potatoes, but they're smooth and delicious, creamy and wonderful. They're probably my favorite of the appetizers despite their simplicity.

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Cebiche Pescadore: Traditional Peruvian Ceviche of mixed seafood
The third cebiche, the Cebiche Pescadore, was also a big hit. A mixture of fish and other seafood like calamari and octopus which had been cooked to a just-right tenderness, this was a cebiche I could eat all summer. The flavors of the sea were enhanced by a citrus-y but not too tangy leche de tigre infused with three peppers. We paired this with an Italian Pinot Grigio, and just enjoyed how the flavors washed down with the wine.

Of note, their pollo a la parilla was just as good as the previous times we'd had it, the chicken moist and tender, the skin ultra crispy but dry without any fat.

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Cebiche Chifero: Asian style tuna cebiche infused in aji amarillo and served in a crispy fried wonton cup
By the time the last two cebiches came out -- I don't know if it was because we'd overimbibed or overeaten -- I was too full to enjoy them.

Nonetheless, the meal was as successful as any I'd had in the past, and we left the restaurant on a food and wine high. "We would never have come here if you hadn't taken us," my friend told me as we were leaving, "but we're so glad you did. I still can't believe how good those potatoes were!" I was hoping to making an impression with the cebiche, but oh well. The potatoes were darn good too.

Unfortunately, the week that featured the new cebiche menu ended that Saturday night. However, a call to Latin Bites revealed that the restaurant plans to do a special menu one week per month. Next up: August 2 - 6. Make your reservations now.



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Location Info

Latin Bites

5709 Woodway Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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8 comments
MICHAEL
MICHAEL

With all the respect Mai, we need to be honest with the public. This small place is not all what you mention. I tried to give another chance to this place and happened the same as Dan.Also for your information and for the public I am attaching some inspections reports. Just to be fair to the consumers.Inspection dateMarch 23, 2011Business nameLATIN BITES CAFEActivityComplaintThis is an inspection prompted by a complaint from the public.Facility typeRestaurant - full serviceFull service indicates the establishment can use tableware (glasses, utensils, etc.) more than once.StatusClosed temporarilyA status of Closed temporarily indicates the establishment had serious violations that were not corrected during the inspection. The business must correct the violations promptly and comply with city requirements as needed. The health department will conduct a reinspection within a specified time limit. This status is also given if the establishment did not correct numerous or serious violations during the inspection.SiteViolations20-19(d): Food establishment rulesPermit holder/ person in charge operating the food establishment/ mobile food service unit not in full compliance with city requirements.Result: Violation20-21.15(c): Water supplyFailure to provide water at 110° F. (43° C.).Result: Violation20-21.19(b): Hand-washing sinks generallyHand-washing sink not provided with hot water at least 100° F. (38° C.).Result: ViolationOther known inspectionsAugust 3, 2010

Dan
Dan

I went and the restaurant was empty.  They asked whether I had reservations and I didn't.  Then someone else came and said "but we can seat you in 10 minutes".   What was going to change in 10 minutes that a chair suddenly became available?  That is NOT how to treat customers.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Dan, did you mean to say the restaurant was full (as opposed to empty) and that they turned you away because you didn't have reservations? When the other person came, do you know 1) if they had reservations and 2) if they were they willing to take a seat on the patio? These could have made a difference. Things got a bit harried this past Saturday night when some ppl I knew arrived shortly before an entire bottle of red wine smashed to bits and pieces on the floor. They stood for a moment in the middle of the room (while the staff were hastily cleaning the red wine and broken glass, and while the hostess was busy seating another party), then asked me where the hostess was because she had not yet come to greet them. These things can happen in a restaurant so small, where there's no waiting area to accommodate a sudden influx of customers. I can't conjecture on what happened the day you were there, but i do encourage you to make a reservation and give them another chance.

Dan
Dan

The restaurant was EMPTY.  I asked for a table and they didn't give me one because I didn't have reservations.  Then another staff person came out and said I could be seated in 10 minutes.  What will change in an empty restaurant that a table will suddenly be available?  BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I'm going to quote Alison Cook on this one: "Best to know, before you set off, that this young restaurant is very small and still on its colt legs...Patience may be in order, or a postponed visit. You’ll be rewarded with one of the nicest surprises of this dining year."

Carlos Ramos
Carlos Ramos

Dear Dan, we regret you had a bad experience at our restaurant. At Latin Bites we strive to offer our customers a great dining experience. Pease allow us the opportunity to serve you. Let us know the best way to contact you privately, or feel free to write me at info@latinbitescafe.comBest regards,

Carlos RamosOwnerLatin Bites Cafe

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