Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pupusa Buffet - ?

5920-G Bellaire, esquina con Renwick

There are now several locations of this restaurant.

'Un Nuevo Concepto en Pupuseria' the business card says. I saw this and had to try it to find out what was up. A smallish place, very cramped inside, in a very new strip center amidst all that development along Bellaire. The sign on the building also says Cocina Latina so perhaps there was another restaurant in that space previously.

I wondered how the concept of pupusas off a buffet would jibe with Salvadoran pride in the fact their national treat is made fresh by hand? You pay up front, get a plate and go through a short line; it's not really a buffet, pupusas are dished out from covered bins by a server, then you help yourself to curtido and salsa (picante and no picante). There may have been refritos available, too, from the server but I didn't notice them. I expected them to be in the self-serve containers. Drinks are extra; tamales and I think tostones are also available for extra too.

You can see the pupuseras in the kitchen, as many as three at a time when I was there, patting out the pupusas which are held until needed, then cooked and passed to the front, so the time from raw dough to finished product to ready-to-eat product on your plate is not long, at least when the place is busy (it's been packed both times I've been there; in fact the first time I just peeked in and left as there were no seats available).

The curtido was crisp, well chilled, very vinegary, a little spicy, very good. I used so little of the salsa picante I didn't get enough of a taste.

I pointed to a pork and cheese bin; the server, who spoke no English (the cashier spoke good English) motioned to the pork/cheese/bean ones instead and I went with that, plus ayote y queso (squash). I don't know if there's a limit on how many you can order or if you can go back for seconds - that was all I wanted.

The pupusas weren't bad - there wasn't much pork in the first one but it was flavorful enough; the cheese and squash one was my favorite, plenty of cheese - I don't think I've ever had a vegetable pupusa before.

Unfortunately both were too soggy, both from the steaming effect of being in the covered bin a few minutes and from the juice of the curtido. It was impossible to pick them up and eat them out of hand as pupusas are supposed to be consumed, but that's a problem at many pupuserias anyway. Plastic ware is available although I had to search for the dispensers.

This is an interesting concept, useful perhaps if you're in a hurry and don't want to have to wait for table service at one of the numerous pupuserias in the immediate vicinity (4 that I know of). I was surprised to see it so busy both times given the proximity of other choices but convenience counts I guess. Both pupusas were certainly more flavorful than the frozen ones you can get at the supermarket.

Maybe they need to consider removing the covers from the bins on the steam table so the pupusas don't get steamed while waiting to be served?

The 'buffet' was $4.99, a tamarindo agua fresca was $1 extra.


mrgood said...

Este buffet es una copia de el original que se movio a 7909 Hillcroft Houston,TX 77081 con telefono 713 272-6666

Bruce said...

This is just south of Bissonnet in a very new strip center.