Top

dining

Stories

 

Andes Cafe Chef David Guerrero Proves He's Back and Better Than Ever

The addicting tastes of South America aren't your typical Latin fare.

Andes Cafe Chef David Guerrero Proves He's Back and Better Than Ever
Troy Fields
Few other places in Houston serve black clams, and at Andes Café, they get the Ecuadorian treatment in ceviche. Go behind the scenes of this week's restaurant in our slideshow, "Andes Cafe: A Closer Look."

We didn't know where to stop, and we didn't know exactly what we'd be getting, so we just kept ordering. First ceviche — two different kinds, one with fish and one with clams — then grilled beef heart skewered and grilled to a perfect char. Then lean, boneless pork ribs and the Latin American version of fried cheese sticks, complete with a sharp, addictive avocado relish. Finally, the show-stopping course, parrillada mixta, a medley of various meats fired on a grill and served on a smaller, decorative grill platter still steaming and sizzling.

The parrillada mixta is a special dish, and it's usually on the menu on Thursdays only, but it's one that chef David Guerrero insists newcomers order if he has everything he needs to make it. It showcases the most traditional cooking style of much of South America — the parrilla grill — as well as the signature cuts of meat and bright, lively chimichurri that is drizzled over everything.

True to the mixta part of the name, the platter contains lamb ribs, beef ribs, spicy red sausage, blood sausage, tenderloin, intestines and sweetbreads accented with a few potatoes and multicolored bell peppers, also prepared on the grill. Everything is imbued with a magical smoky flavor that transports diners to a cookout in Quito, Ecuador, Guerrero's hometown. Two chefs — one from Peru and one from Colombia — staff the kitchen, ensuring that the food is as authentic as possible.

After surviving a life-threatening brain tumor, David Guerrero is back in the kitchen at Andes Café.
Troy Fields
After surviving a life-threatening brain tumor, David Guerrero is back in the kitchen at Andes Café.
Andes Café was constructed on a shoestring budget, but the murals by local artist Wiley Robertson tie the whole space together.
Troy Fields
Andes Café was constructed on a shoestring budget, but the murals by local artist Wiley Robertson tie the whole space together.

Location Info

Map

Andes Cafe

2311 Canal St., #104
Houston, TX 77003

Category: Restaurant > South American

Region: East End

Details

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Sunday.

Anticuchos: $7
Chicarrón peruano: $7
Tamal de puerco: $3
Papa la huancaina: $6
Sanduche de pavita: $9
Pescado ceviche: $12
Concha negra ceviche: $14
Pollo la brasa: $12
Congrio frito: $14
Hornado: $14
Chaufa de quinoa: $13



Go behind the scenes of this week's restaurant in our slideshow, "Andes Cafe: A Closer Look."


From my seat in the dining room, I was staring straight at the mural of the Andes Mountains overlooking Quito, picturing myself there as I cut into the most tender sweetbreads imaginable. The spicy sausage had me reaching for my water, but I was pleased to find not a bit of grit or chewyness in that or the sweetbreads. The morcilla was crumbly and almost completely black and filled my senses with the dusky flavor of spices marinated in pig's blood, then cased in intestine. Its texture and unusual taste are unlike anything else in the parrillada mixta, but we all found ourselves intrigued by its unique nature. Only the rather unappetizing-looking intestines went largely untouched.

By the time we reached the remaining few cuts of meat on the platter, we'd taken to mixing all the dishes together. A forkful of beef got dunked in the bright yellow aji cheese sauce from the papa a la huancaina. A rib was dragged through leftover crema de huacatay, a creamy green salsa made with Peruvian black mint. A slice of sausage was sprinkled with a teaspoonful of crema de rocoto, simultaneously stifling the meat's spice with mayonnaise and elevating it with the heat of the rocoto chile.

I don't know if this is how people feast in Ecuador, Peru or Bolivia, but this is how we do it at Andes Cafe. The entire table became a platter of various meats, vegetables and sauces from which to mix and match, and we tore into it all with abandon, licking our fingers clean of the yellow aji sauce and bits of charred meat as we went. This isn't the typical Latin fare that Tex-Mex lovers have come to expect in Houston. This is a true taste of South America, and it's addictive.
_____________________

When many Houstonians think of Latin American food, they probably think of Churrascos or Latin Bites, two very different but representative examples. Andes Cafe provides a third type of South American cuisine, neither hearty and bold like Churrascos, nor upscale and delicate like Latin Bites. Andes Cafe is situated somewhere between the two, with an array of dishes representative of every country through which the longest continental mountain range in the world passes.

The menu proves a devotion to all the foods of South America by offering breakfast, lunch and dinner and labeling where each dish comes from. There's a clear emphasis on Peru, whose cuisine Guerrero says is his favorite, even though he's from Ecuador.

Anticuchos and chicharrón peruano are highlights of Peruvian cuisine, small skewers of tender grilled beef heart and boneless pork back ribs, respectively. Both are served with choclo (hominy), giant starchy kernels of corn, along with a few of the many dynamic sauces that I later found myself drizzling on everything.

A soothing new favorite of mine is the tamal de puerco, essentially an oversize tamale stuffed with shredded pork, hard-boiled eggs, and kalamata olives and served with a salsa criolla sprinkled festively on top. Forget all the tough, dry Tex-Mex tamales of the past. This knife-and-fork-worthy tamal is beyond moist, with the traditional Peruvian fillings practically oozing from between cracks in the flavorful masa.

Papa la huancaina, a Peruvian version of potato salad, mixes soft-boiled potato slices with hard-boiled eggs, vinegary kalamata olives and chunks of delicate white cheese, all topped with a creamy sauce made from ground aji amarillo, Peru's "sunshine pepper." I began eating the dish with a sense of decorum. I ended by dipping a spoon directly into the sauce and ladling it directly into my mouth, the bright, sunny yellow peppers dancing across my tongue.

The ceviches most notably demonstrate Guerrero's ability to coax maximum flavor from individual ingredients. The Peruvian ceviche, with white fish, choclo, cilantro and red onions in a heady marinade of aji limo and lime juice, differs greatly from the Ecuadorian concha negra ceviche of black clams, pickled red onions and tomatoes in a thin sauce of lime juice, ketchup, mustard and the clams' own briny liquid. The former is sour, spicy and in-your-face. The latter is more subdued and much more unique, especially for those who have never tasted black clams or Ecuadorian ceviche.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
4 comments
zquezada
zquezada

Wow. What an incredible review. Very well written.

zquezada
zquezada

Wow. What an incredible review. I love the tie in with food, art, love, culture, community. You really have a way with words

phrringa
phrringa

Please serve hot dogs Ecuadorian style! Best hotdog I ever ate in my life was from a hotdog cart in Quito!

phrringa
phrringa

If he can replicate a hotdog I got from a cart when I was in Quito I will go there weekly! You haven't lived life to its fullest until you have eaten a hotdog Ecuadorian style!

 
Loading...