If you were among “the few, the proud” to embrace the original Latin Bites Cafe in the tiny corner space that once was Dharma Cafe, then you’re likely to find the new Woodway location bigger, better – and, happily, exactly the same. That’s what I caught myself thinking during dinner last night, in some ways missing the BYOB status of the old joint but rooting for chef Roberto Castre and his partners to make lots of money selling us wine, beer and cocktails. Heck, when the manager brought us a Pisco Sour, the national drink of Castre’s native Peru, I raised a toast to the joys of capitalism.
I’m guessing you know enough about food history to know that potatoes hail from Peru – no, not from Ireland. And that, while most of us think of potatoes as a single thing, there are hundreds if not thousands of types of potatoes grown in Peru to this day. All shapes, all colors, all textures. Which helps explain how potatoes can anchor the Peruvian appetizer above, called causitas. Three little mounds or cakes of whipped potatoes support various salads plus a host of very different Martian-colored sauces that all feel like mayo on your tongue. The one with shrimp escabeche is our favorite.
Let me count… the menu at the new Latin Bites features no fewer than 14 spins on ceviche – here spelled cebiche and logically more in the Peruvian than the Mexican mold. Several of the most popular cebiches feature mixes of seafoods- fish, shrimp, squid, octopus, you name it. But the mood was upon us for shrimp, and this dish did not disappoint. Yes, there are excellent marinated shrimp under all that taste and texture, plus sweet potato, white Peruvian corn and a crunchy roasted version thereof.
Yes, even the main dishes that come with rice on the side come with potatoes in the middle – like this seafood entree called pescado a la chorillana, the pan-seared fish ending up tasting a bit Chinese in spite of itself. Fact is, there are tons of delightful Asian touches in Peruvian food, a “fusion” brought about naturally by millions of immigrants from China and beyond over the decades. To be Peruvian, I gather from Chef Roberto, is to embrace your inner fusion.
There are several dazzlers among the desserts at the new Latin Bites (which, by the way, is at 5709 Woodway, a location that most recently attracted attention as the gutsy but shortlived Rockwood Room). Our favorite finale, though, has to be the Latin Bites Terrine, a frozen layering of mango, chirimoya and white chocolate served with dulce de leche truffles and that glistening tire tread of raspberry coulis.