Diners and culinary adventurers might recall Ñusta's Cafe, an excellent restaurant in Arlington that offered a hard-to-find cuisine: Peruvian. Now, the restaurant has resurfaced in Plano, at 621 W. Plano Pkwy., with chef-owner Cesar Melendez back in the saddle.
Ñusta's opened in 2011 as a sweet little family-run spot serving impeccable Peruvian dishes done with a personal touch. But Melendez had a day job, and the restaurant was only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, which limited its audience and reach. Despite favorable reviews, the restaurant closed in 2012.
Melendez is now fully invested in Ñusta's, which is open six days a week, for both lunch and dinner, with a menu that incorporates favorites from the Arlington days, as well as newer dishes he's accumulated in his recent travels.
One of his signatures is the causa crocante de mariscos, a classic Peruvian dish in which mashed potatoes are coated with panko crumbs and fried; Melendez mixes chopped shrimp into the potatoes. The balls boast a crisp, light, golden shell, while inside, the potatoes acquire a soft, custardy denseness.
His trademark entree is lomo saltado, a Peruvian version of fajitas, with sirloin, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onion. They also throw french fries into the mix.
Melendez had been on the hunt for a new location when he found the Plano spot, which is across from the Collin Creek Mall, in a space that was most recently home to Smokin Racks BBQ & Bar.
"Plano is a lot more busy than Arlington, I feel lucky to have found this," he says. "Plano seems to have a lot more people who want to try out new food."
The new Ñusta's also has a couple of features that Arlington did not: fine service; an elegant atmosphere; and hello, Pisco sours, the trendy cocktail with a distinctive sour-sweet flavor.
"We have a liquor license, which is important," Melendez says. "It's just for wine and beer, but we do some very good mixed drinks with wine."