New Guiso Latin Fusion in Healdsburg
If you’re wondering what pastelitos de cangrejo are, think “Bodega Bay with a south of the border twist.” Because quite simply, that’s the Spanish term for crispy sautéed crab cakes, in this case, slathered in sharp-tart ginger-cilantro aioli.
And they’re just one of the exotic but still mostly familiar dishes we find at the delightful new Guiso Latin Fusion in Healdsburg.
A project from financial officer and co-owner Carlos Mojica, his son and chef-co-owner Carlos J. Mojica, Guiso takes over the former Ravenous Café and Lounge space on North Street. The interior has been completely redone, too, for a more suave, gracious feel, primped in mustard plaster feel walls, earth tone abstract art, metal wall lanterns casting warm gold shadows, and white tablecloths glittering with votives.
While Sonoma County is no stranger to dishes like pupusas, we’ve always had them as street food-style snacks in ultra-casual eateries. Here, the fluffy golden corn tortilla cakes are stuffed with premium crab, pork or vegetables alongside homemade curdito (pickles) and salsa, and you can pair them with a nice glass of Sonoma County or South American wine. They come three to order, and the kitchen doesn’t mind mixing and matching.
Tacos are good, plump with spicy chicken, purple cabbage and mango-pineapple salsa with a side of refried beans, and the guanaquito sandwich is a tasty meal of flank steak, sautéed onion and bell peppers, pepper jack cheese and Latin aioli on homemade rustic bread alongside seasoned yucca frita slabs. You’ll want to get the elotitos, too, as a superb, savory nibble of sliced, oven roasted corn on the cob rubbed in Jamaican jerk seasoning, butter, garlic and parsley for a dunking in chive crema.
Yet it’s even more fun to explore the statement dishes, for an exciting taste of something different amid the high-end boutiques of Healdsburg Plaza. Fish of the day is dressed in a flavorful cultural costume as pescado con coco, the fillets sautéed in sweet coconut, persimmon and white wine reduction paired with jasmine rice, crispy yucca and spinach. Paella, meanwhile, enjoys the toothsome addition of tender beans amid the chicken, prawns, mussels, chorizo, veggies and saffron rice and white wine-smoked garlic sauce.
And if you like chile relleno, this version will thrill. Think meaty, spice chile stuffed with sautéed chicken breast, zucchini, mozzarella, carrots and basil, set on a puddle of robust tomato sauce that soaks into watercress-topped jasmine rice.
This is also your opportunity to indulge in quesadillita con helado, a dessert bringing semi-sweet rice-cheese bread that’s intriguing all on its own, but sublime topped with vanilla ice cream and strawberry-lemon reduction sauce. Flavors remind a bit of fancied up shortcake or pound cake.
In any language, Guiso means “delicious.”