Monday, March 2, 2009
(I'd like to apologize in advance for the subpar photos. A picture's worth a thousand words but a word's worth...)
I'm new to the Colombian thing. But so far, so good. So very good. And before we get started, these people do not play when it comes to food. Based on what I've seen I don't understand how the entire population isn't on some Gordito shit.
Queens es el rey de la comida Colombiano. I rarely see the blue, red and yellow flag flapping in the Bronx and the same goes for the island of Manhattan. BK has more than the mentioned, though I don't think they have a large Colombian contingency. And Staten Island- who cares? For some 2007 demographics click HERE.
I'm kind of ashamed it took me this long to delve into this grub. You can say I was a shook ones, as I wanted to but was reluctant, having no direction and no clue what to order. On a Sneaker Fiends Unite tour with Internets Celebrity Dallas Penn I got a taste of what I was missing at Meson Colombiano in Jackson Heights. Any restaurant with a neon lobster is good in my book. DP, a man of vast knowledge, knew the special handshake at the door so we had no problems. The dude drinks pepsi with his cabernet, or vice versa. That is some purveyor of the good life shit- you get the picture. As I was told, and as I will tell the uninformed next man, order the bandeja typica (typical platter), or something similar to that- bandeja paisa, etc. Bandeja means tray or platter and the Colombians stack as much food as possible on the thing.
The top photo is what we're talking about. Rice, beans, grilled steak, fried egg, platano maduro (sweet plantain), chicharron (mix of fried pork skin, fat, and meat), arepa (corn cake), chorizo (sausage), and avocado. The minute I saw it I knew I'd be there for a considerable length of time. It takes me an hour just to eat one of these things. I was in no rush. Hours of sneaker scouring really build up the appetite.
Each item on the bandeja was prepared with care, nothing being an afterthought. The steak was very thin and seasoned well. The rice and beans acted as the bed that everything rested on. A little different than DR or PR rice and beans I was used to, but on point nonetheless. The chorizo was a bit spicy and added that necessary element of fire. The arepa was new to me as I'm used to arepas being more like a pastelito or empanada- a patty of sorts. This was more like a dense dumpling with no filling. If stomach space is limited, pass on this. The chicharron freaked me out a bit. Shit was fried pork fat with minimal meat. While I love the fat and gristle, this was a bit too much for me. Baby steps. The platano was one long piece, not the typical sliced greasy maduros I'm used to. This was more or less a mix of maduro and tostones- dry but sweet. And the egg just added some protein to an obviously protein deficient meal. The yolk made the arepa more enjoyable. Being allergic, I didn't go in on the avocado. DP said to order it anyway. Dude was really trying to see me in anaphylactic shock, and slowly take over the internets, one blogger at a time. DP- I see your strategy. Encyclopedia Black- you're next. The best part of the meal- the dish cost $12.50. The meal was washed down with a Colombiana Kola. I know I'm on my anti HFCS, but when in Rome...
The next stop on this Queens tour, we head southeast towards Jamaica landing at Punto Rojo on Hillside Ave. I've been spending a lot of time on Sutphin Blvd. and I wish I would have known about this place weeks earlier. I wasted a lot of lunches just filling myself up and not enjoying the food.
Punto Rojo, half bakery/half restaurant, is an oasis in a barren, shitty area. The food choices are terrible by the courthouses. Come on lawyers and judges, let's take advantage of your persuasive nature and bring some decent, edible spots to the area. But I digress. The only thing I ate their was soup. This isn't your typical soup- more like soup on winny or my favorite- Bole. The bowl is close to 8" in diameter and 4" tall. We're talking major spherical volume. And each order comes with a separate plate of salad, rice, platano and several chunks of meat- depending on the soup of the day (see photo above). All of this is yours for $8.50. I really don't understand how they can serve this much food for such a relatively inexpensive price. Same goes for the bandeja tipica.
Monday serves up Sancocho de cola, aka oxtail soup. Wednesday offers Sancoche de res, beef soup for the gringos. The soup is the same for both- the only difference with the meals is that oxtail is served on one plate while chunks of beef are provided on the other. Curiously, there is no beef in the soup. I assume it's a beef broth served with potatoes, yuca, and platanos. Rich and flavorful broth with a generous amount of cilantro. On brick days, this more than did the job.
Thursday is where it's at though. This is one of the best soups I've ever had- cuento verdad. It's called Ajiaco Santafereno and have absolutely no clue what it means. Delicious maybe. A chicken broth based soup with whole leaves of spinach, potato, chunks of chicken off the bone, and slices of corn on the cob. Thicker than typical chicken soup, the sweetness of the corn and cilantro balanced out the bitterness of the spinach and created some sort of soupal bliss. Whatever the fuck that means. Surprisingly the chicken was sin hueso (off the bone) which I prefer. Hate biting the bone. MEGA SUPER ULTRA PAUSE. The corn had to be eaten by hand, but who doesn't love using their hands to eat.
As mentioned, the soup comes with white rice, a small salad with lettuce, corn and pickled cabbage, platanos, and chicken. Forget the roughage and go in with the rice and chicken. Similar to a stewed chicken but in a lighter sauce. Very tender and very good.
I'm ready for more Colombian food. Based on the tiny sample I've tried, I'm sold and ready to get more. Problem is I doubt I'll be in Queens till the U.S. Open. Granted, make sure the restaurant looks up to snuff, but once that's settled, go in. And don't forget to ask for Ajiaco Santafereno. Adios familia.
82-11 Roosevelt Avenue (82nd St.)
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
147-16 Hillside Ave. (between Sutphin Blvd. and 148th St.)
Jamaica, NY 11435
Mon- Thurs 6am to 10pm
Fri-Sat 6am to Midnight
Sun 6am to 11pm (that's what they said over the phone)