Volcano Rice Wows The Crowd: Laudable New South American Dishes at Latin Bites
Photo by Mai Pham Volcano rice is not only eye-catching, but it's delicious as well. And it's brought sizzling to your table.
The volcano rice arrived at our table to a chorus of wows: three hot stone bowls sizzling, crackling and steaming hot, with a colorful assortment of vegetables and meats arranged around a perfectly round yellow egg yolk. A Peruvian version of the Korean dolsot bibimbap, it was chef Roberto Castre's take on a fried rice -- an homage to the Peruvian Chinese food, known as chaufa, so ubiquitous in his homeland, Peru.
After the sizzling died down, servers were on hand to mix up the ingredients inside the hot stone bowl -- carrots and zucchini, Peruvian-marinated pork and chicken, chinese sausage, egg and more, all blended together with golden-crisped Jasmine rice to make one of the best fried rice dishes you'll have the pleasure of eating.
"This is one of my favorite restaurants in the city," said Felice Simmons, one of the Urban Swank bloggers sitting next to me at a recent media lunch held at Latin Bites. "Everything that I've ever had here is delicious."
Photo by Mai Pham A kitchen trio: Roberto Castre, left, with Alejandro Betancourt and Masaru Fukuda.
I couldn't agree more. Every time I visit Latin Bites, I find another dish to add to my list of favorites in the city. During my first visit, back when they were still at their old location on Nance, I fell in love with their lomo saltado (stir fried beef chunks), their pollo a la parilla (rotisserie chicken), and their pappas a la crema (potatoes with cream sauce). Those still remain some of the best Peruvian dishes I've ever tasted.
Last summer, it was a stunning pulpo al olivo, or octopus tiradito with olive oil. Last fall, I was gaga over the duck confit with cilantro rice (and came back for it to celebrate my birthday), and a tuna tiradito with maracuya, or passion fruit. And this past summer, when I was eating sandwiches all over the city, the chicken club sandwich blew me away with its depth of flavor and textures, coming in number one on my list of Seven Stellar Sandwiches.
Photo by Mai Pham Palta rellena -- stuffed avocado -- is a creamy take on the traditional salad.
And yet, even with this list of greatest hits, Castre continues to create anew. On this recent afternoon, he was introducing new dishes with more of a South American theme. "We're still a Peruvian restaurant," explained Castre's sister and partner, Rita. "But we have clientele from Colombia, Venezuela and other countries who have been asking us for more South American dishes."
Castre's answer to this demand comes in the form of a palta rellena, or stuffed avocado, which was plated with a swoosh of avocado aioli. The halved ripe avocado was stuffed with a chunky pinkish mixture of potato salad with beets, apples, carrots, green peas, queso fresco and micro mint. The effect was like eating an avocado version of an ambrosia mix, with a creamier queso fresco that is lighter than mayonnaise. I loved it.