A Latin American twist in Washington, DC

Jun 4, 2009

The Rumba CaféAfter a long day of hard work, it was time to relax a little and catch up with an old friend.

A Canadian reporter now covering American politics, informing us of the latest developments, she has recently discovered a nice Latin-American style restaurant and bar in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC: the Rumba Café.

The Piscou SourI arrived first, which gave me a bit of time to sit at the bar and order a drink.  I asked the barman, a Parisian lost in DC, what was the specialty of the house.  He offered me a Pisco sour, a Peruvian drink made of pisco, a peruvian grape liquor, mixted with lime juice, egg whites and sugar.  At 9$, it was not cheap, but it was worth the try. 

Nicely sour, the egg whites made it quite foamy and give this drink an interesting texture. I wouldn’t have more than one, though, as it is quite rich.  The Rumba's Decor

As I waited and sipped my Pisco Sour, I had a long look at the eclectic decor.  Lining the walls of the restaurant, you will find photos and paintings linked to Latin America. Religious paraphernalia was hanging everywhere, in typical Latin-American fashion.  And dollars were stuffed here and there, placed by patrons hoping to be rewarded for their good action.

She arrived shortly after, and we settled on the patio.  The Rumba’s menu, brought to us by the friendly owner – an italian, go figure – is quite interesting, with offerings from all over Latin America.  We decided to order a couple of appetizers to start.  We picked the Plantano Relleno, baked plantain stuffed with cheese, Venezuelan Zuleano style;  and the Yuca Fritta, fried yuca roots served with a mojo sauce (olive oil, garlic, lime juice, spices).

   Yuca Fritta

The  nicely baked plantain was delicious. Of course, it was not quite stuffed – it was cut in half and the cheese was on top.   When baked, all the sugar falvours are brought out of the plantain, and it mixed very well with the caramelized cheese, mozzarella it tasted like. 

The yuca fries were also tasty. The yuca, also known as cassava, is fairly close to the potato in terms of flavour and texture, although it is slightly sweeter and more dense. They were nicely golden and thick, and I could have simply had them with ketchup.  They served it with mojo sauce, with nice chunks of garlic, but I was not overly-excited by it. 

As we were finishing our appetizers, a rainstorm over-took the neighbourhoud and even though there was an awning, we were a little too exposed for our liking.  We grabbed our things, including the bottle of Quilmes I was drinking –  the national beer of Argentina, where it holds 75% of the market. Straw colour, weak aroma, very high drinkability level, nothing offensive or inspiring. 

We then consulted the menu for our main meal, and we decided to share their Paella de mariscos.  A warning message on the menu bode well – this would take 40 minutes of preparation.  Good stuff – it should be slow.   They advertised this dish with lots of seafood in it: shrimp, mussels, clams, squid, crawfish, scallops.  Green peas, red peppers and carrots are also going to end up in the rice-filled casserole.

Paella de mariscos

Now, we are talking.  This was absolutely delicious.  The seafood was nice and tender, not overcooked at all, which means it was cooked very slowly.  The rice on which the fish and veggies were resting wasn’t dry at all, and it was thoroughly infused with the tomato sauce and with the flavour of the quality seafood.

It was plenty for two, and we were certainly glad to order only one dish to share – we barely finished it.
With a few more Quilmes, it was simply a fabulous meal – the food was great and the service, attentive and friendly.  Not sure if they can maintain this when it is packed with people who came listen to the live music, but I’m sure it is a lot of fun nevertheless.

.Rumba Cafe on Urbanspoon