Cafe Rumba: Peruvian perfection

by Aaron Kayse

Cafe Rumba, a new Peruvian-style deli, or Sangucheria, brings authentic flavors of Peru to our city by way of affordable sandwiches, soups, salads, desserts and Peruvian drinks. As our group entered the caf , located on 1140 N. State St., we were greeted by one of the owners in the large open kitchen that overlooks the dining area. Salsa music played in the background and the walls were decorated with colorful paintings of classic cars and other local art. The place was bustling and festive. Luckily, we took the last table that could seat four and looked over the menu.

Cafe Rumba was everyone’s introduction to the world of Peruvian food and we were all very impressed. After much internal debate and a conversation with the woman at the counter, Apple decided on ordering the pavo sandwich (roasted turkey breast – $6.50). She convinced him by asking if he was interested in new flavors he probably hadn’t had in a sandwich before. The roasted turkey breast is paired with black mint (think of it like mint pesto), rocoto aioli and spinach leaves on a delicious bun. The sandwich was indeed unlike anything he’d had before – the savory turkey, spicy aioli and mint created an addicting flavor explosion with every bite. The mint was probably the most dominant flavor and made this sandwich memorable.

Kayser ordered the Butifarra sandwich (Peruvian pork – $6.50), which consisted of marinated braised pork with aji amarillo (a Peruvian yellow chili pepper) and onions tossed in a citrus and red pepper salsa. To say that this sandwich also had a lot of flavor is an understatement. Inside the soft, crusty roll sat a few large slices of tender pork and the crunchy onion salsa – all smothered in a sweet and spicy sauce. As a meatless option, they also make a tofu sandwich with roasted pepper, spinach, sprouts and choice of sauce. The main difference between these sandwiches and every other one we’ve ever had, is the Peruvian authenticity. You won’t find food like this elsewhere in Bellingham.
As a side, both sandwiches came with boiled potatoes, cut and served with a mildly spicy, creamy Peruvian-pepper sauce. That description comes straight from their menu since we had trouble pinpointing the ingredients. It almost tasted like a curry or cheese sauce. Either way, it is a simple and delicious side. Salads and a soup of the day were also available for order, along with many different traditional Peruvian desserts.

[singlepic id=161 w=320 h=240 float=left]Lastly, we both ordered a beverage called chicha morada ($1.50). The colorful drink is made with boiled purple corn, lime, pineapple, cloves and cinnamon. It’s so thick that when you first lift the cup, it’s noticeably much heavier than water. The flavor was tangy up front, but then the spice really comes in right after. If you aren’t feeling quite that adventurous with your beverage choice, they also have apple water (which tastes a bit like watered-down chilled apple cider), a Peruvian soft drink made with lemon verbana called Inca Kola, American soft drinks and self-serve water with cucumber.

There’s really nothing to dislike about this place. The menu is affordable, the atmosphere is festive and bright, and the food is authentic and absolutely delicious. It’s easy to tell that the restaurant is a labor of love for the owners and we can’t recommend it enough, especially to someone looking to broaden their culinary palette. You won’t leave disappointed.

Cafe Rumba is located at 140 North State Street. For more information, 746-8280 or visit caferumbabham.com.