The first thing chef Nilton Castillo hands guests visiting his food truck is a can of bug spray.
"Zancudos," he says with an apologetic smile as mosquitoes buzz around in the muggy Miami air.
Castillo, who has worked under Daniel Boulud, José Andrés, and Gastón Acurio, switched gears and opened his Latin-fusion food truck, Cilantro 27, six months ago.
"I wanted to do something simple," he says. "My bio is all haute cuisine, and I got bored of haute cuisine. I wanted something delicious and not too expensive, so I went to this."
On a modest corner lot, Castillo has strung lights in shade trees and placed wooden bistro tables, each decorated with a pot of plastic pink marigolds, to add ambiance. Those who know about Cilantro 27 overlook the street noise and fake flowers in favor of the food.
Mofongo con lomo saltado
Courtesy of Cilantro 27
Castillo, who was born in Lima and moved to Miami when he was 12, prepares traditional Peruvian dishes with Asian and other Latin American influences. His best seller is a marriage of Puerto Rico and Peru: Mofongo con lomo saltado is a heaping plate of mashed green plantains framed by marinated grilled meat and vegetables ($13 for beef, $10 for chicken, and $12 for shrimp). Other offerings include cebiche ($12) and empanadas generously filled with Peruvian stews such as seco de res and ají de gallina ($5).
For dessert, Castillo offers passionfruit mousse ($4) and a deconstructed arroz con leche ice cream with crunchy cinnamon-toasted rice sprinkled on top ($4).
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"I created the menu with Miami taste," Castillo says. "I like to live in Miami. I didn't want to go to New York or Chicago, so I created a kitchen where I identify myself in Miami. It's not simply Peruvian, which is my origin, but Latin, which is Miami."
Cilantro 27 has created a steady clientele through word of mouth and social media, and Castillo has teamed up with J. Wakefield Brewing for pop-ups in Wynwood. The truck also fulfills orders through apps such as UberEats, Postmates, and Bite Squad.
1898 SW 27th Ave., Miami; 786-366-7235; facebook.com/cilantro27. Tuesday through Thursday 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., Sunday 6 to 10 p.m.