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Posts from the ‘Colombian’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Feeding Out of Towners

seamore's spread

Seamore’s The sustainable seafood restaurant may have won “Instagram Bait of the Year,” but I’ll concede this is a pretty shoddy pic. (There’s a reason no one is paying me $350 to promote their food.) The poke, so LA, and chosen by the visitor from that raw fish-crazed city, was easily the best thing eaten and it was all because of the peanuts in addition to the tuna, avocado, and ponzu. The bluefish in its pure state was fine, and kind of bizarre with miso brown butter that tasted like caramel corn (perhaps better for sweeter shrimp or scallops) The steamed vegetable and grainy sides of the same sort you get at The Meatball Shop (not that I ever eat there, but what I’ve heard from a friend who regularly gets vegetarian meatball takeout and was also was at this dinner, is how inconsistent and frequently half-cooked everything is) were less exciting even though it didn’t matter since the well-fried dogfish tacos took up all my free stomach space.

la perrada de chalo hot dogs

La Perrada de Chalo There are a lot of ways to go when wooing a West Coaster and trying to convince them Queens is a great place to stay even though they’d prefer Manhattan. Don’t attempt Mexican, just don’t, even though we know the Mexican-food-in-NYC-sucks trope is tired. Colombian hot dogs are more than capable of doing the trick, however. Make the crushed potato chips, bacon, pineapple, blackberry sauce, and creamy squiggles of mayonnaise and ketchup blending into one, seem like foreign delicacy. Plus, open 24 hours on weekends, which is a tough call between the nearby White Castle.

dominique ansel kitchen savories

Dominique Ansel Kitchen I chose the chicken chicken paprikash and cheddar chive biscuit when I should’ve just shared the massive croque monsieur. And I’m still stinging from not realizing the edamame avocado toast is actually a bread bowl when I’ve dedicated my life to embracing the edible vessel.

brooklyn diner kugel sundae

Brooklyn Diner I wouldn’t tell anyone to go to Brooklyn Diner (how it happened to me is still vague) but noodle kugel in a sundae was a surprise. And a welcome one along the same rich, custardy lines as leche flan hiding out in a pile of icy halo halo.

cata egg toasts

Cata Kind of underrated. Do we ever hear about this tapas bar I picked primarily because it’s a non-abusive Friday night choice on the Lower East Side? The big gin and tonics (smoked coconut, kaffir lime) are fun, the food doesn’t suck, though even after sharing maybe five things and two desserts (among three, then four for sweets) you still might end up getting tacos on the way home and find out your Oakland friend stopped for cereal milk soft serve in Carroll Gardens. The quail eggs benedict with chorizo were the sleeper hit.

jackson heights white castle

White Castle Yeah, so I was recently at one in Detroit but I’d never been to the location I’ve lived a ten-minute walk from for the past year. And no better time than 4:30am on a Saturday. Semi-related: I’m still waiting for the damn Northern Boulevard Denny’s I was promised.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Sweets, Shots, Samosas

 arepa lady dessert

Arepa Lady Desserts can be a sticking point at otherwise fine restaurants. Post-tacos, curries or dosas, the sit-down Arepa Lady is fine for a sweet nightcap and open until 1am on weekends, to boot. A naturally sweet arepa de queso can be doctored by a number of squeeze-your-own sauces like pineapple, condensed milk and dulce de leche. Share with a friend at the bar if you’re too full, and if you’re lucky you may walk into one giant birthday party. If I understood correctly, the entire space, which isn’t saying much as it’s the size of a bedroom, was celebrating the Arepa Lady’s daughter’s birthday. We cracked open the leftover BYOB beers from an earlier meal at Kitchen 79 and were gifted a few shots of aguardiente. Salud!

london lennie's quad

London Lennie’s is so awesome I may have to dedicate two entries, one for food and one for the bar. Queens will never be allowed to be called “The New Brooklyn” as long as dollar oysters remain scarce. Offhand, Astor Room and London Lennie’s are the only two borough restaurants I’m aware of with such happy hour deals (I’m all ears, if you know more) and both require a bus ride. No one in Brooklyn, by which I mean Williamsburg, the epicenter of dollar oysters, refers to them as “Buck-a-Shuck” either. In Rego Park, they are available Monday through Friday, 4pm-6pm at the bar. On this occasion the oysters, just a little sweet and saline, were Rocky Reef from Long Island. You may also want big, fat battered fried shrimp, crab dip and oyster shooters. You may also be bought a shot of tequila when your new bar friends find out it’s your dining partner’s 40th birthday. There have been a disproportionate amount of shots consumed since I moved to Queens last month.

raja sweets samosa chat

Raja Sweets & Fast Food Even though Jackson Heights is known for Indian food (I see the Jackson Diner is doing a pop-up at Diamond Bar?) it’s not what the neighborhood excels at. Neither are places to pass time leisurely. Initially, I popped into the reopened Jackson Heights Food Court for a snack to kill time while my apartment was being taken over by wallpaperers (my dining room and entryway kind of rule now) but no one behind the steam table would make eye contact or take my order. To its credit, it did give me that foreign dining feeling where I start questioning myself, “Am I not doing this right?” Carb coma-inducing chaat, more like two dinners than a snack, can be had for $4.99 down the street, so it’s all fine. Instead of being broken up to resemble a lettuce-free chopped salad, this samosa chat contained two nearly intact potato-filled specimens tossed with the requisite chickpeas, spicy sauce, yogurt drizzles and a slew of cilantro and raw chopped onions. Just the right balance of crispy-crunchy and mushy, punched up with heat and an optional diy swirl of sweet-tart tamarind sauce (not really chutney–it looks like ruddy sweet and sour sauce). I’ve had a few chutneys recently that are nearly dead ringers for pico de gallo. A Russian woman at a party last weekend claimed Russian food was like Mexican, which is one of nuttiest things I’ve ever heard. If you said Indian, I’d entertain your argument.

Goodie Obsession: All the Empanadas at La Nueva Bakery (and More)

la nueva empanadas duo

Empanadas appear to be having a moment and for no discernible reason. First Gothamist, then Serious Eats…ok, that’s just two. Maybe it’s my own recent empanada bender that’s clouding my logic. I just ate two less than an hour ago. I suppose empanadas are pretty evergreen. (Even I did a round-up another lifetime ago.)

This weekend, with the help of an out-of-towner and stranger-now-acquaintance, I tried every empanada at La Nueva Bakery, plus two giant guava and cheese pastries, the triangular slices not the standalones. Honestly, I couldn’t even rattle off all 12 iterations, some finger-crimped and doughy, others golden and sealed with the tines of a fork, a few able to stand up on their own while most need to lie down. We didn’t dissect them; we just ate them.

la nueva emapanadas warming

There was definitely beef, pork, chicken, tuna, spinach, ham and cheese, and vegetable. Not all were Argentine/Uruguayan; the cafe also has a Colombian influence, not surprising considering the immediate neighborhood. The red salsa, though only mildly spicy and spiked with thick garlic slices, doesn’t strike me as very Argentine. It’s not a culture traditionally in love with hot food. You won’t even find black pepper on the table in Buenos Aires.

mama's empanadas sliced

A pit stop at Mama’s Empanadas turned up more overtly Colombian pastries with some American flourishes. I mean, this is the mini-chain known for its Elvis (peanut butter and banana) empanada. This bunch is more motley with a mac and cheese, Hawaiian (I will never not order ham, cheese and pineapple if given the opportunity) another cheese and guava where all the cheese was on one end like a bad burrito, a yellowy corn flour empanada filled with shredded beef, and a beef and pork papa rellena.

Originally, I planned to add Mexican into the mix but imported chain Pastes Kikos was still closed at 1pm due to an issue with the oven. You know, because seven doughy items per person just isn’t enough.

The best? It’s all subjective. Either you prefer baked or fried, green or red sauce, traditional or otherwise. I’m a fan of the standard baked Argentine beef empanada, but must concede that the mac and cheese was pretty good despite never eating mac and cheese (I’ll always be a sucker for anything Hawaiian, though). La Nueva’s Colombian-style fried cornmeal version stuffed with pernil was a standout. The surprise was the moist, chunky tuna, which I’ve always avoided. It wasn’t dried out even after reheating.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Queens For a Week

I have now been a official Jackson Heights resident for exactly one week. It’s good getting back to my chowhoundy roots. Of course, it’s hardly uncharted territory; this neighborhood and environs have been well tread by Joe DiStefano, Dave Cook, Jeff Orlick and Robert Sietsema, among others. And yes, there are even some women on the scene–just tonight there was an event featuring a discussion between two Queens cookbook authors, Andrea Lynn and Meg Cotner.

I’ll do what I can. Right now that means eating everywhere within walking distance. I’m afraid I’m turning into a bachelor (also that I’m gaining a pound a day in baked goods and ghee.) The newness will wear off soon enough, real fall weather will kick in, and I’ll eventually settle back into home cooking. Maybe?

saw shack takeout

Saw Shack It’s Chinese takeout with rough wood beams instead of primary colored Formica that would feel more at home on Smith Street or Vanderbilt Avenue. On the counter, there’s water chilling in a giant spigoted Mason jar with cucumbers and limon (sometimes cantaloupe) but you can still get a can of soda with your sesame chicken combo meal in a Styrofoam container. Minus the mock meats, there’s nothing radically different about this menu; it’s not upscale or elevated. The pork in the double cooked pork tastes like pork, the sauce isn’t sweet or greasy–in fact, it’s spicy as was asked for–and includes nice thin slices of that smoked tofu that looks like gouda. Pink and green flecks imply there is actually scallion and crab (or at least krab) in the rangoon. You’ll get duck sauce, and also an earthy chile oil that I want to believe is homemade. It’s mostly shredded cabbage in the spring roll, though a meaty strip of shiitake also lurks. This is not a destination restaurant, just a boon for locals.

el gran uruguaya duo

La Gran Uruguaya I accidentally wandered here first, thinking it was La Nueva, the more storied bakery. Both are equally busy and at least on the surface have similar racks of baked goods that would take me months to get through if I tried one item a day. The beef empanadas were fresh from the oven (otherwise, you can have them warmed), super flaky and more rich than you’d expect from a baked version. For me, anything stuffed with dulce de leche is dangerous because I like my sweets sickly sweet, and that sums up most of what’s on offer (except the naked, dry-looking twisted things closest to the register)

la nueva trio

La Nueva Bakery So far, I’ve only sampled a ham and cheese empanada that seemed all shredded ham, and a classic beef empanada that was heavier on the olives and lighter on filling than La Gran Uruguaya’s. The crust was also more bready than flaky, which may be more correct. I will have to do more taste testing.

rajbhog sweets mithai

Rajbhog Sweets I said I like my sweets sweet, right? Half a pound of mithai equals more or less six pieces (pistachio burfi, those round syrupy things called cutlets and a mystery silver-leaved white oblong stuffed with what I think is sweetened cheese), enough for a family or enough for me to finish in less than 12 hours. While senselessly watching Requiem For a Dream, I saw myself in Ellen Burstyn’s character caressing her box of chocolates. And we know how she ends up. The only remedy will be if I stay in my part of the neighborhood and avoid the Indian section.

el chivito d'oro parrillada

El Chivito d’Oro I was going to marvel at how much food you get for $38 until I realized that on my last visit the parrillada for two (teaming with short ribs, sweetbreads, sausage, morcilla, skirt steak and veal) plus two sides cost $10 less. Ok, that was eight years ago, so it’s still a marvel. The meat will probably be well-done. No one will likely ask if you wanted it otherwise. If you’re not fussy, a $19 bottle of Malbec isn’t a bad addition either. Fries and salad, my extras, share billing with less South American rice and beans and tostones. A lot of people order the potato salad. A very long Happy Birthday song might be played. On weekend nights, this and its nearby competitors, all have lines out the door. If you haven’t set up your kitchen yet, you will have leftover meat to eat for a few days and that’s a good thing.

pollos a la brasa mario chicken

Pollos a la Brasa Mario Somehow there are three of this mini-chain in a ten-block radius. There’s certainly more than rotisserie chicken, but I’ve never ventured deep into the Colombian canon (that will have to change soon). The soupy beans (not pictured) are seriously porky and kind of amazing.

kitchen 79 pork knuckle

Kitchen 79 I will say more later (I’ve been twice already) but for now this strangely glossy Thai restaurant is an area standout. You can have your pork knuckle, fish maw and wild boar or bring friends who’ll both order curries with tofu and eat them like entrees and it will be ok (love you guys). Despite the bar with taps advertising Yuengling and Sapporo, it’s still BYOB.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Cold-Fighting

Taste good malaysian trio

Taste Good Malaysian There are many directions you
can go if you're a spicy soup to ward off a cold type: soondubu jjigae, hotpot,
menudo (for some reason tom yum doesn't appeal) or Singapore laksa, a.k.a.
laksa lemak, the rich coconutty style. Somehow the combination of heat and
creaminess just makes sense for a sore throat. Elmhurst's Taste Good Malaysian
is as good as anywhere to get a fix. Their version filled with bean curd puffs,
half a hardboiled egg, chicken shreds, a few small shrimp, fish cakes, bean
sprouts and fat, round translucent noodles is a meal in itself (always a
problem because it's too filling to allow for any rendang, nasi lemak or sambal
shrimp) though a shared roti canai and popiah won't hurt. I only regret having waved off the scrappy gentleman trying to sell a
bottle of Robitussin in front of the Queens Adult Care Center on the walk to
the restaurant because I'm still sick (the laksa didn't work, but it was tasty)
and too beat to walk the eight blocks to the nearest drug store.

Die kolner bierhalle bratwurstDie Koelner Bierhalle The Park Slope beer hall with
a surprising amount of seating (communal, of course) is more for drinking and
sporting, though a simple bratwurst and big plate of spaetzle and speck (not
pictured) are fitting winter accompaniments. Just don't try to order the bauernwurst
or you'll be steered away with "Nobody orders it. We're removing it from
the menu." What's wrong with the bauernwurst?

Blaue Gans You could also get a bratwurst here (no
bauernwurst, sorry) but it will be $7 more than in Park Slope. While relatively
casual, Blaue Gans is still more of a sit-down affair. If you order the blood
sausage, you might be asked if you've had it before. (Do you see a trend
forming? During three recent meals–including Qi Grill, not mentioned here–I
was essentially told that I didn't really want what I said I wanted, which
makes me testy.) Or maybe the server just meant it's not presented in cased
sausage form, but loose and molded into a circle. No one warned me away from
the calves liver with apples and bacon, thankfully.

Cafecito bogota cartegena arepaCafecito Bogota If you find yourself in upper
Greenpoint on Sunday during dreaded brunch time, you could do worse than an a
la carte arepa (though feel free to order the $16.99 three-drink with food special
if you're into mucho mimosas, sangria or refajo, an unseemly blend of Colombian
beer and cream soda–they weren't able to make a bloody mary). The Cartegena
comes with a big mound of scrambled eggs, shrimp and cilantro.

Hudson Yards Cafe This might be the most inoffensive lunch place closest
to the Javits Center. Never mind that all the
other badge-wearers (you've taken yours off, of course) are drinking iced tea
and Diet Coke. Stick to your guns and down two pints of Stella with your
fontina (spelled fontana) and prosciutto panini; it'll endear the older bartender who's also midday tippling to you. If you're a certain age being referred to as a "good girl" isn't offensive.

Taco chulo rajas hashTaco Chulo I don't normally eat restaurant
breakfasts (despite contrary evidence above) especially not on weekdays, but I
had time to kill before looking at a nearby apartment (I didn't realize how
many area restaurants are dinner-only) and rajas hash with chorizo was right on,
greasy and yolky with a bit of heat. Of course when I showed up to the
apartment on time, a twentysomething couple was also waiting even though their
appointment was a half-hour after mine and so I was forced to look at their
out-of-my-budget apartments with them (and vice versa). Why kill time, waiting
your turn when you can just be a twentysomething in Williamsburg?




When Taco Salad Won’t Do

Taco salad My June/July Taste of Home couldn’t have come at a more fortuitous time. A chunk of family I rarely see (aunt, uncle, cousins, grandma—ok, I did see her last year) will be visiting over Memorial Day weekend. I suggested they come out to Brooklyn Sunday afternoon since it seems like it would be easier just to cook than to deal with a large group in a neighborhood that's not big on taking reservations (Lucali would be ideal but I can't even subject myself to that nightly pileup) and offers little more than Italian-American food (I already acquiesced on Little Italy for Thursday!) within a reasonable walking distance for car people.

Not everyone has relatives that would enjoy Jean Georges, Scarpetta, Pulino's, The Modern or wherever else it is that blogs and magazines often recommend you take adult out-of-towners. Two-starred as of a few minutes ago, Prime Meats, is the closest restaurant to my apartment but cramped, two-hour-wait eateries staffed by "a crew of handsome men and women dressed as if ready to ride horses back home to Bushwick, where they trap beaver and make their own candles" just isn't going to fly even with these visitors from The Beaver State.

But now I am mildly, only mildly, concerned because I know when people say “oh, I’ll eat anything” that is absolutely untrue. And frankly, I have no idea what this crew likes to eat. You never know what will give someone pause. In the past it has been cilantro and banh xeo (I know, I know, but it’s just an omelet filled with vegetables and meat). I am not saying they are yokels. One West Coast peculiarity is an affinity for wine even if you’re not a foodie type—they are bringing wine from a friend’s vineyard—but American flavors are probably a safer bet, cuisine-wise. I will temper my love of the fishy, fermented and mouth-burning.

And this is where I look to Taste of Home for guidance. So, what does America like to eat? I’m baffled by a taco salad recipe that is to-the-letter what we’d eat on a regular basis 25 years ago, the only difference being something called Western dressing instead of Catalina (I thought that maybe they were the same, but I’ve been schooled). I only turn into a food snob when I think about things like taco salad–Americans should not be eating like this still.

A search for taco salad on the Taste of Home site brings up 176 results, including a taco salad waffle, tater tot taco salad and the pictured patriotic taco salad. Readers undeniably score high marks for creativity.

Amidst the enchilada lasagna and chiles rellenos casserole, there is also a recipe for flour tortillas. Impressive, and more labor-intensive than I would expect from a weeknight cook. On the other hand, there’s nothing remotely spicy about the Thai chicken salad, all full of sesame-ginger dressing, peanut sauce and chow mein noodles.

I also couldn’t ignore the Cooking for Grandma contest featuring a 10-year-old boy who loves to fry (doughnuts and fried pickles are his two specialties). He came up with a recipe for Mexican ice cream (vanilla rolled in crushed cornflakes, sugar, cinnamon and honey). What’s up with all the Mexican-ish flair?

I almost went down that vague path myself; the grilled leg of lamb with ancho chile marinade in the new Bon Appetit jumped out at me (yes, I quickly eschewed Taste of Home for Bon Appetit). But lamb? Not always a crowd-pleaser. Ancho powder seems benign, as well, but who's to say.

Tunisian chile sauce is no one’s taste of home either, but I am leaning toward the harissa-marinated top sirloin tips from the same issue. Everyone loves steak, right? Well, they’re going to, dammit. Now, I just need a few sides that don’t involve cream cheese.

Pollos a la Brasa Mario

MariooutsideRotisserie chicken can go in so many directions. And frequently that direction is boring (don’t even get me started on recipes that require a store-bought chicken, have you use the meat and throw away the skin). Yet, somehow on Saturday night it was decided that Latin-style chicken should be dinner.

I’m kind of partial to Peruvian renditions mainly because I like the punchy green sauce that often accompanies it. But maybe I’m just thinking of Pio Pio (I don’t think Pardo’s has it). The September Latino Gourmet has a recipe for Peruvian but they don’t make any mention of an aji salsa on the side (I’m so not crazy about the Epicurious re-design. The new recipes haven’t even been put online yet). The soy sauce in the marinade is an interesting cross-cultural addition, though. Fried rice, a.k.a. chaufa, is also a regional anomaly.

MarioinsideDue to a series of uninteresting circumstances, we ended up on a Jackson Heights block with three options: Casa de Pollo Peruano (too packed), Gusty Chicken (closed) and Pollos a la Brasa Mario. I’d been by the multi-level 24-hour Colombian joint with a bird mascot (maybe they all have bird mascots) a million times and had never stopped in. It was the perfect occasion.

MariochickenI was always under the impression that Mario was kind of fast foodish and chicken heavy (perhaps, that’s more Frisby, the new game in town.). The formica booths and laminated picture menus imply so, but many of the entrees are substantial and over $20 (in my experience, Colombian portions are intimidatingly huge).

Sure, Rayuela has a live olive tree, but Mario has a sprawling fake orange tree and framed posters of cartoon animals eating the cuisine. My favorite was the Sylvester the Cat rip-off with an arepa and strip of chicharon. There was also a horse grilling something indiscernible.

MariobeansIt was Saturday night and crocks of seafood stew and teeming multi-meat platters graced many a table. But we came with a simple mission and stuck by it. Whole chicken. I wanted yuca frita, James ordered frijoles grande, which were way too grande and studded with a few bones so you knew you were in for ham-hockiness. White rice is standard but I prefer my Latin starches rooty and fried.

MarioyucaAs accompaniments, you’re given a puree of green chile, thick and more scoopable than a usual salsa verde and a squirt bottle of what seemed like Thousand Island dressing minus the relish chunks. The two mixed together made a nice, visually repulsive dipping sauce for the yuca.

Mario is as good as a brightly lit rotisserie chicken restaurant might be, though it’ll likely be some time before I ever get around to a re-visit. There are so many contenders (what with all those Korean fried chickens crying for my attention) in the global poultry game that it’s impossible to stick with any one eatery or style.

Pollos a la Brasa Mario * 81-01 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, NY


Xtasis_counter Hot dogs, whether simple or overstuffed, mystery meat or all beef, make me queasy. Even so, I’m fascinated by what Colombians do to fast food staples. On a recent accidental foray onto Northern Boulevard I noticed that Mazorca had closed and that Xtasis had expanded from a rinky-dink storefront into a glowing, acid pink eatery triple the size.

Xtasis_burgersThey do a similar thing as La Perrada de Chalo but actually have fewer choices. Where Perrada goes wild with random styles like the Iraqui and Mexicana, Xtasis offers a handful of choices including Hawaiiana (ham, crushed potato chips, pineapple sauce, white cheese), something translated Super Cowboy and the Super Xtasis with hard boiled egg, bacon, thousand island dressing, avocado, chips and I’m not even sure what else. I love all edibles Hawaiian so that was it for me.

Xtasis_hawaiian_burgerBut on a burger, which are equally popular as the massive perros mixtos. I’ll admit that it’s not the best burger ever. The flavors aren’t terribly cohesive, the meat is barely perceptible in the condiment strata and it’s next to impossible to fit in your mouth. Normally, I like a toasted bun but in this presentation it induces crumbling. But it is fun, assuming gut bombing is your idea of a good time.

Xtasis_interiorOne peculiarity is that beef burgers are not only offered but chicken too. Oh, and that they have two sinks sitting prominently in the dining area (vaguely discernable in photo on the left). It's not like there isn't a bathroom sink, so are they implying that the food is so messy that extra wash stations are warranted?

You can also try snacky things that tend to involve wieners, eggs and yuca. If it hadn’t been so chilly and stormy, I might’ve tried a cholado, shaved ice and fruit concoctions that sometimes get drizzled with condensed milk. They seem nearly Asian but not as wacky as halo-halo.

Xtasis * 82-12 Northern Blvd., Jackson Heights, NY

Listo el Pollo

1/2 Listo_facadeI would be talking out of my ass if I called Listo el Pollo the Colombian Hooters because I’ve never been to a Hooters. But I’d like to imagine that this Jackson Heights oddity is better than a Hooters. They’ve mastered out the ok food, made better than ok by young waitresses in skimpy attire approach. That might’ve been enough in its own right, but the restaurant also appears to be a former tiki lounge that was lightly, if at all, redecorated to reflect the Latin American cuisine.

I suppose it’s possible that bamboo, coconuts carved into monkey faces, palm trees and Sex on the Beach drinks (I was confused by a cocktail simply called Alexander—that’s like vodka and tomato juice being dubbed Mary) could be found in Colombia. On the other hand, there’s nothing Polynesian about the white, ruffly grandma curtains that make each booth feel like a private paradise. That must be the Colombian touch.

Listo_waitress_2Really, the ladies’ costumes are more campy than sexy, sort of a pirate/dirndl hybrid (I witnessed something similar in Hua Hin, which I didn’t realize was a German expat stronghold and lots of the restaurants served muesli and sausages and had Thai waitresses gussied up in dirndls) composed of a short skirt and corseted top. I’m not one to be bold with photo taking so my only evidence is a stealth shot with a server in the background. Sure, there were some groups of guys there for the ogling but mostly the clientele is composed of families and couples.

Listo_chickenIn my limited but rapidly expanding Colombian food experience it seems that they truly are the masters of the large combo plate. I stuck with the roasted chicken and ordered a half when ¼ would’ve been sufficient. For $6 and change it was a bargain, coming with white rice, fat pink beans dotted with pork, and a boiled red potato (I was hoping for something starchy and fried) and a tough nugget of an arepa.

Listo_salad James got the whole bandeja shebang with steak, chicken, pork, yuca fries, plaintain, arepa. Maybe more, I can’t remember. We also got a little white pitcher of herbier than spicy salsa and salads with a selection of Kraft dressing packets. At least we had a choice between Italian, French and Ranch–at Honduras Maya we just got a plastic bottle of Kraft Italian, no options.

Listo_easter_2We also ordered Coronas, which came preparado, a new concept to me where they’re served in salt-rimmed glasses over ice with a slice of lime. It was no Alexander, but it sufficed.

Atmosphere can be half the battle with many restaurants, a poor one will piss me off for life even if the food is superior, while a fun one will elevate an otherwise ordinary meal. Listo el Pollo put me in an unexpectedly good mood for which I have to give them high marks. Plus, my inexpensive dinner provided me with lunch the following day.

Listo el Pollo * 8602 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, NY

Tierras Colombianas

Tierras_columbianas_wall_artI’m not sure what it is with Colombians and excess (maybe it has more to do with my ordering style). Over the summer I became acquainted with potato chip, avocado, mayo, ham, bacon and tomato topped perros calientes. This weekend I met the bandeja campesina, an overflowing country plate. It makes me wonder whether a city platter would be heartier or more delicate.

Tierras_columbianas_arepa_chorizoI immediately liked Tierras Colombianas. The spacious all-booths set up and self-promoting paper placemats make me happy like a Latin Denny’s. Red foil paper and hearts were festively bedecking random surfaces. I particularly liked the cut out heart tucked beneath the wall art golden god like he’d crapped it out (ok, maybe he was just sitting on it). Romantic.

Tierras_columbianas_bandeja_campesinaWe ordered an arepa and chorizo appetizer despite anticipating massive entrees. Colombian arepas are smaller, paler and chewier than better-known Venezuelan versions. They don’t immediately give when cut with the side of a fork. The chorizo was tangy, green-speckled and herby and bursting with cumin. We ordered it to try a few bites, knowing it would likely end up in a doggie bag.

Tierras_columbianas_placemat_1James’s bistec empanizado, breaded beef cutlet, which also appeared on at least half of other diners’ plates, was practically the size of a deflated football. But I got the whammy. There was nothing bucolic about the long crispy-fat strip of chicharron, thin grilled steak, maduros, white rice, soupy yellow-tinged beans, a third of an avocado, arepa and fried egg crowning the whole beautiful mess. A spoonful of genuinely spicy green salsa completed the picture.

Sure, the country plate is a couple meals in one, and that’s how I treated it. I skipped breakfast and made a late lunch and 1 am dinner out of it. Never mind that an ice cream sundae snuck in between those two feedings.

Tierras Colombianas * 8218 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, NY