I've always been on the lookout for good Colombian food in the city, having been raised in Miami in a Colombian family. But nearly six years into my quest, I've found that it's not so easy to find. This is surprising, given that Colombians are among the top five Latin contingencies in the five boroughs. But just as the Colombian population is highly concentrated in Jackson Heights, so is the good Colombian food.
Bogota Bistro in Park Slope is trying to change that, and in some ways, they succeed. In others, not so much. The menu has a tendency to deviate towards many Brazilian and pan-Latin specialties, but I was happy to see most of the Colombian staples covered. (They'd better be, at a place called Bogota.)
Before anything else, I ordered a Colombiana (Colombian "champagne-flavored" soda) and a passion fruit shake—the hard-to-find drinks are a good measure of authenticity. I was pleased when the waiter asked if I preferred my shake made with milk or water—that's just how it's supposed to go. When it comes to passion fruit, ask for water as your base if you know what's what.
The meal, after the jump.
The empanadas—a must for any Colombian outing—come in both traditional and Argentinean doughs, but the former didn't have the grit and crunch of the typical Colombian version. Though I didn't order the Argentinean one, I thought perhaps it was what I was served—either that, or the kitchen is using the wrong flour for their Colombian shells, against the menu's indication. I was surprised that they didn't have Colombian beef empanadas, which at most of my family's gatherings (at home and on the town) are so favored that no other kinds are served. Also missing—ahi, a spicy blend of cilantro and jalapenos.
Chorizo, on the other hand, was just right: snappy and spicy, the only way I'd want to eat it.
Venturing into true Colombian territory, we ordered a Bandeja Paisa, or the countryman's platter, which is essentially a bunch of traditional staples on the same huge plate. These are staples in the truest sense: carne asada, rice and beans, plantains, a fried egg, an arepa, and of course, chicharron, or deep fried pork rinds. It's adapted slightly for the New York crowd—the steak is thicker and juicier than its normal thinly pounded shape, and though I missed the familiar style, I'm sure most people prefer it this way.
I wasn't so thrilled with their adaptation of pollo sudado, another dish that's usually good not in spite of its simplicity, but because of it. What's normally a hearty stew came to the table shouting of cinnamon, maybe even anise. Too sweet, too messed with, and not my cup of tea.
Obleas are hard to find even in Queens, so I gladly ordered them for dessert. The dulce de leche-filled wafers get stale quickly since they're so thin, and though these suffered a little bit, I was excited to get my hands on them nonetheless.
Bogota Bistro won't be the end of my search for authentic Colombian food by any means, but it's good to know that a place exists where you can go out with friends for a lively crowd—the place was jammed during the city's big December snowstorm—and some quality comfort food, Colombian style.
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