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Restaurants & Bars 1

El Paisa Orient Heights

itaunas | Mar 10, 2008 10:50 AM

Stopped in to check out this Columbian restaurant on a whim (was going to go to beachmont rb). I loved the handwritten sign in Spanish on the kitchen window advertising morcilla by the lb (not certain if made there, but its $5/lb if you want to buy some for home cooking). The menu was seemed short compared to some south american restaurants in the area -- handful americanized dishes, two sizes of montanero (bandeja paisa), sobrebarriga a la criolla (90% certain since they didn't have spanish names), sauted seafood dishes (and trout/salmon, hard to tell what is american dish), chuletas, roast and fried chicken (no rotisserie on site that we could see). They had a trio of sancochos (chicken, beef, oxtail) and mondongo (no ajiaco). However, still reassuring that they only had Columbian dishes and not a pan-Latin menu.

Wines both in earthenware cubes under the kitchen window and on a shelf above the bar (I didn't see a list unfortunately). Aguilar and Club Columbia, plus regular beer suspects. Line up of liquor near ceiling appeared to have Aguardiente Antiqueno (from a distance, but could have been cristal), copa de oro, bailey's, Amaretto, and a couple of others that I am drawing a blank right now. They did have blender shakes/juices (eg pulp with either milk or ice/water), including mango, passion, and tamarind. It was really empty for a Sunday afternoon, but the person working deliveries was reasonably busy.

This used to be Cafe Italia Too and they seemed to leave the walls mostly the same. The back wall had Fernando Botero copies, the side wall some country-theme paintings. They were playing cumbias at a fairly decent volume. As mentioned the kitchen has a huge picture window, but from the dining room you can't see much more than the kitchen staff milling around and the (for lack of a better term) "expo" station. The staff was dressed in chef's whites (including a 10" high pleated chef hat) and there were 3-4 waitresses, but still ours was a bit scarce (second beer as we were finishing).

Sancocho came with a light saffron colored broth: subtle saffron taste, moderately salted and seasoned (no overuse of bullion), not much saffron aroma and not very deep. One piece each of potato, yucca, and green banana. Corn and meat, cilantro.

The Large Montanero was one large platillo, plus another with salad and an extra serving of rice. Beef lightly seasoned (nice break from goya adobo and sazon heavy preps), perfectly fried chicarron, egg, beans (could have been more brothy, but nicely seasoned with more salt than garlic). Very excellent mini arepas (and one placed on the salad platter). Rice, though, was an after thought -- seasoned with just salt and not pre-fried, overcooked. Iceburg salad with bottled dressing. Definitely much better than central American copies of bandeja paisa, possibly a bit nicer than la fonda paisa.

There was no room for dessert and didn't catch what they had.

Overall they appear to be trying to do a nicer Columbian dining experience, menu, service, and seasoning definitely accessible to American audience and close to T (I like hounding Chelsea, but there are some places where DCs won't join me). I could have used a bit more garlic overall, but appreciated more subtle spicing. Wonder if they just have a cordial license, but if they have a full liquor license could make more use of it. La Fonda Paisa has a larger columbian-only menu (and portions too), overall prefer Peruvian options nearby, but definitely will be back to try the sobrebarriga. Depending on what comes with the $7 or $7.99 montanero, it might be a good contender for the under $8 thread.

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