April 02, 2011

Restaurant Review: Latin Bites

I had a wonderful evening catching up with a few friends, some I haven't seen in several months. Latin Bites Cafe is a cute restaurant located in a discrete part of downtown Houston that serves a variety of tapas to entree style Latin inflused cuisine. I wouldn't have noticed the restaurant among the many warehouses if it weren't for the packed intersecting street of cars or the two awnings for the restaurant's outdoor seating. It's BYOB and being tapas style, I'd recommend that you order several dishes and share with the table. More opportunity to try more dishes!

Latin Bites is owned by Chef Roberto Castre, who is originallly from Lima, Peru. He's worked previously in Miami, NYC, Dallas, and then came to Houston to open Latin Bites, which has been open for roughly eight months.  When I first heard of Latin Bites, I was told "you must get a ceviche, it's what they are known for." Heck yea! I, of course, am a fan of anything seafood and ceviche definitely tops my list.  When you are served with your first plate, you will be incredibly surprised by the colorful presentation and wonder, is this what I ordered? Latin Bites takes the typical South American food and brings a unique twist to it with colorful sauces, atypical presentation and the taste is surprisingly good. 

I must apologize for the quality and lack of photos. Having just come back from a work trip, I hadn't put my camera back in my purse and had to use my blackberry.  I only captured the appetizers, as when the entrees arrived, we were all so eager to dive in that I completely forgot until well into our meal with half empty dishes on our table.

Before I dive into the appetizers, I have to highlight the little cheese bread rolls (looked online and they are called pao de queijo) they brought out. I still think about them and that may quite well mean they were my favorite part of the meal.  They are light, buttery and holy, you can't not just eat one.  Must. Make.
Causitas appetizer which is whipped potatoes amarillo pepper, rocoto pepper and spinach basil topped with roasted peppers, shrimp and chicken salad. Beautiful presentation.  I have to say, the presentation was a 5 and the taste was probably a 4. I could only slightly taste the difference between them and I think the toppings combined with the potatoes make the dish.
Sashimi tiradito tres sabores is white fish sashimi with three cream sauces: limo pepper, amarillo pepper and rocoto pepper. My first reaction? "This is ceviche?" I have to say, I was definitley doubtful when I saw this.  Don't fret. It's definitely a unique twist but a good one. This was my favorite dish (apart from the table rolls) of the night. The fish was fresh, the cream sauces had a nice silkly texture and tang to each bite.
Empanadas filled with beef tenderloin and onions. The filling was good, I think the dough could have been a little more flavorful, but overall with the green (cilantro) sauce, they were pleasant. 

We shared three entrees: Paella, Seco de Cordero and Tallarin Saltado Especial (granted, we ordered the Tallarin Saltado de Vegetables...). Paella, I couldn't really say that it was the best I've had or was blown away by it. It was a tad dry but did have a good mixture of seafood. For our dinner clubs, we typically clean every plate (we like food!) and we had half the paella left. The lamb was good and worked well to have with the paella. It was rich and need to be complemented with a carb or starch in my opinion. The pasta dish was surprisingly good or it may have been that I just love noodles. It wasn't too oily, whcih can happen with asian inspired noodles, and the fresh veggies and meat were a nice complement.  We cleaned this dish, despite it having meat when we were looking forward to a veggie dish.

Latin Bites is a 3 out of 5 star in my book. I liked the appetizers more than the entrees, and I LOVE the cheese rolls.  Goodness. So good.  I'd go back just to get those rolls. Overall, I think this place is a great place to catch up with your friends for a fun, casual yet intimate dinner. It's a small restaurant with only a handful of tables so make sure you make reservations.  You'll be suprised by the inventivness of the presentation, color and taste of the dishes. The four of us ordered six dishes total and our split bill ended up being only $25 without tip.  Note, this did not include wine as it is BYOB.  Service was good and our waitress was very helpful in providing us hints into what she liked best and recommended we order.