Cuban GF has been nursing a nasty cold. Thought a little "ropa vieja for the soul" might do her some good. Rather than our usual jaunt to El Cochinito (which is great, but sometimes inconsistent), thought we'd try out El Colmao, just West of downtown.
(Driving East on Pico from WeHo, noticed many Houndish eateries I've not yet tried---Papa Cristo's, Dino's, about a hundred Oaxacan places. Very hard to maintain focus on the road.)
El Colmao looks like (and must have been at one time) an old diner. Photos of famous Cubans adorn the walls (a la Sal's in DO THE RIGHT THING). Cuban bread is immediately plunked down on the table. Butter on the side, along with a jar of salsa. GF looks at the salsa and sniffs, "Never in Miami". This, of course, motivates me to dunk my bread in the seed-laden, green-black, aji-like concoction. Wonderful. GF frowns disapprovingly.
Deep-fried pork chunks with onion and wedge of lime for her (masitas de puerco). She insists the meat be well done. It arrives crispy on the outside, cooked through as requested, mysteriously still juicy and tender. Terrific---this is one of those dishes that can be dry as sandpaper at El Cochinito. Curiosity gets the better of GF, as she begins applying a little salsa to her puerco---sacrosanct to any self-respecting Cuban, I'm sure. "Delicious", she proclaims.
Lengua en salsa whatever-it-was for me. Rather than shredded or thinly sliced, as I was expecting, two huge wedges of tongue arrive, bathed in red sauce. It looked like my plate was making faces at me. Red sauce is subtle and smoky, tongue has an intial firm snap, supplanted by tender, juicy, flesh with heavy beef flavor.
Feast is rounded out with good beans and rice, restorative materva soda for the lady, rocket-fuel cafe cubano for me. Happy and comfortable campers were we.
2328 W Pico Blvd (just E of Vermont)
Los Angeles, CA 90006