Blowing your foodie mind: A high-end Houston restaurant gives an underrated side a starring role
While still a relative newcomer to the United States dining scene, quinoa has been an essential part of Peruvian cuisine since it was first cultivated in the Andes 3,000 years ago.
With 2013 recently declared as the International Year of Quinoa by the United Nations, Roberto Castre of Latin Bites Cafe has given the versatile grain-like seeds (pronounced keen-wah) a starring role on his new spring menu. While American audiences may be used to eating quinoa as a side — like rice or couscous — the Lima-raised chef offers everything from quinoa fusilli pasta to a homemade quinoa burger layered with grilled pineapple.
I took a multi-course journey through Castre's current creations, which draw upon the diverse flavors of Central and South America while maintaining a focus on the ocean-side cooking traditions of his native Peru.
Along with Latin Bite's amazing sauces, one of the most memorable moments came in the form of a simple "Andean lettuce wrap," a small handheld salad featuring crispy quinoa that's been sauteed in addition to the normal steaming used to soften the seeds.
Chef Castre takes a break from the quinoa for the "sashimi tiradito tres sabores," a small plate that presents traditional Andean staples with a nod to Peru's longstanding Japanese population. A delicate piece of raw white fish is served with sweet potatoes and choclo (a large-kernel variety of corn). Topping the dish are three spicy cream sauces.
The cafe is also promoting its new line of natural fruit juices — featuring tropical favorites such as guava, mango and papaya alongside South American fruits flavors lesser-known to Texas audiences, like citrus-y lulu and raspberry-like mora.
Latin Bite's current seasonal menu will be available through the end of summer. Click for hours and details. For more on the International Year of Quinoa, check out the U.N. video below: