Which came first, the world-class wines or the crave-worthy restaurants? In the last decade, Paso Robles, California, has become a destination for foodies and wine enthusiasts. Estrella Restaurant is basking in the well-deserved attention of both. Located directly across the street from Paso Robles’ charming downtown square, this Latin-fusion restaurant offers diners a culinary trip through Argentina, Spain, the Caribbean and Chile with a sprinkling of Executive Chef Travis Borba’s Mexican heritage thrown in for good measure. In a small town with more than its share of fancy wine restaurants and uninspired Mexican eateries, Estrella’s unique approach to Latin cuisine makes it a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike.
You can’t get more homegrown than Chef Travis Borba. His family has lived in California’s Central Coast region for five generations. He’s a graduate of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, and after graduation, he worked in the family business until 2007, when he decided food was his calling. Borba studied at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon. After completing his externship with Executive Chef Meagan Loring, Travis earned his stripes catering fine-dining events in the San Luis Obispo area. When given the opportunity to join established restaurateurs in their newest venture, Estrella Restaurant, Borba welcomed the chance to help develop a menu filled with the flavors he already knew and loved. Chef Travis earned the title of Chef de Cuisine in 2012, and in 2013, he became the executive chef of Estrella Restaurant.
Estrella is open for lunch and dinner with tapas, soups, salads and full entrees available during both services. The warm, spicy colors and old-world charm of Estrella’s interior sets the mood for the cuisine. The dishes are familiar yet adventurous, zesty and flavorful without the biting snap of too much spice.
The tapas at Estrella are generous and made for sharing. Tres Empanada is one of the most popular offerings, and justly so. Braised pork fills the pockets of tender empanada crusts, each fried to crispy perfection and topped with a creamy chipotle sauce. Yes, please. The Carnitas Salad and Cactus Paddle Soup are just two examples from a menu that blends traditional Latin ingredients with modern techniques to create truly unique fare.
The best way to explore Estrella’s enticing menu is to bring friends. With options like Plantain Crusted Halibut served with coconut-green chili sauce, Jamaican Seafood Curry with an ocean of clams, mussels, prawns and mahi-mahi served with sweet potatoes and Caribbean rice, or traditional Chile Relleno stuffed with your choice of crab, queso fresco or carnitas, it’s almost impossible to save room for dessert. But if you do, the Churros and Chocolate will please your grown-up taste buds while making you feel like a little kid as you dip the fried chunks of goodness into a sauce of Mexican chocolate.
Estella’s wine list is like its food: an exciting blend of exotic imports and the familiar. Local wineries are featured — after all, you are in the heart of the second biggest wine-growing region of California — but if you prefer to drink an Argentinean, Chilean, or wines from Spain with your Argentinean-inspired ribeye, Estrella has you covered. Here is a teaser of their wine list:
2012 Mar De Frades Albarino Spain
2011 Callia Alta Torrontes Argentina
2007 Trapiche Winery Malbec Argentina
2009 Las Rocas Garnacha Spain 39
Several of the local wineries featured on Estrella’s list are practically right down the street from the restaurant and are places you’re likely to visit if you take a Paso Robles wine tour. Clayhouse, Niner, Oso Libre, Vina Robles, Ancient Peaks and Opolo are some of the most well-known and award-winning producers in the area. Chef Travis has taken great care to not only offer wines that complement his menu but wines that represent the best of the Central Coast region, all while keeping selections affordable. Most wines are available by the glass or the bottle. The knowledgeable wait staff are happy to recommend pairings, and asking questions is the best way to learn about Central Coast wines.
For a quick bite before catching a movie at the theater across the street, for tapas and wine leisurely enjoyed at one of the outdoor tables overlooking the park, for an intimate dinner, or for a lively evening with friends, Estrella Restaurant truly is a shining star in the constellation of Paso Robles’ fine-dining industry.