All the carbs I had today really compounded for dinner. I had two whole pizzas for lunch and two waffles for breakfast, and now I was going to a Colombian themed place … Potatoes, Yuca, Corn – I was in for it. Luckily, and not by my own choosing, I got some exercise between the meals.
This was probably the poorest planned itinerary of any day of 93 plates. Breakfast in Midtown West, Lunch in WIlliamsburg, Dinner in Park Slope – just plain asinine. Might as well have gone to Hoboken for lunch – it might have been faster. All the running around during the day was enough, but when I started to take a cab in Brooklyn from Atlantic, the guy wanted to charge me $10 to go five blocks, and I’m poor, so I got out. I hopped on a bus that I thought was going the right way, and I was seven blocks down Flatbush before I figured out I was wrong. It was below freezing and the wind chill was ridiculous – I was going to be a few minutes late – what are you gonna do?
Amy and Jonny were already there in the best seat in the house, overlooking the dining room (I’d requested the one with the best light the day before). We got into some conversation; they were happy I wasn’t some loser. I asked them if they would perform for the camera. Amy said she knew a joke that she could tell and then absolutely butchered it (in the video). Much of the conversation centered around The Duck Song from then on. I brought the video up on my phone, got some new earbuds out for them to listen, and they were quite amused. Full disclosure; I love The Duck Song.
These guys are great at social media. They harness foursquare, have a great grasp of twitter (link to their account), and are all about their community. I can’t say enough about how much of a pleasure it was to work with everyone here.
|Plantains, Shrimp, Hearts of Palm
So they gave us this first dish and it was a sampler platter of a bunch of different apps. I don’t remember which apps they were, but I’m reading the menu right now and I can’t even begin to figure out what they were. Part of this project demands that I don’t have specials (because I want to help advertise something that’s going to be on the menu for a while) and that I get things as they are meant to look (for photography). Our first plate violated both of these, and I let our waitress know what I needed for the rest of the meal and we were good.
Two things stood out about this plate: the thick, fresh tortilla and the succulent, garlicky shrimp. I know they could probably bring you both of these things if you asked for them, so if you want this, that’s how you describe it to them. I just wanted to note that the tortilla is one of the better tortillas I’ve had in the United States. If they don’t make them at the bistro, I want to know where I can get these things.
|Colombian Chicken Tamale
Obviously this wasn’t the sexiest looking thing on the menu, but it was pretty tasty. it was a spicy chicken and plantain mash served with the aji that Jonny loved so much. I probably ate half of this guy because it came with my second favorite condiment, sour cream (#1 – mayo, obviously). I slathered that stuff all over it and went to town the entire time our appetizers were on the table.
|Fried Red Snapper
When I was in Panama, the place that I stayed in Playa Lajas was owned by some Colombians. They made some mean fried whole fish. I had it for three days straight. The hammock I slept on was $4, the snapper was $7 and beers were $1. I more than survived on $20 a day down there.
That was probably my favorite dish of my Central American excursion, so the snapper at Bogota Bistro had a lot to live up to. The couple and I talked about how memories of situations clouded how fantastic the taste actually was, and that might have been the case. It was unlikely that the fish here was going to come close, and it didn’t. It was the only disappointing point of the meal, but there were unrealistic expectations placed on this plate, so that was assumed before even ordering.
Chicharrones is a severely underutilized dish. Consistency (both definitions of consistency apply) is definitely the culprit when talking about why it hasn’t really caught on in mainstream American cuisine. First of all, when you look at Chicharrones in a Cuchifrito, you aren’t going to be able to tell how well it is cooked, Depending on the piece the chef serves you, you might get this uber-hard stuff that’s terrible or the juicy, crispy stuff that you love, or the whole batch may be too hard for you, who knows? You can’t tell by looking.
Either way, they do theirs right over here – exactly the crispiness you expect out of a good Chicharrone (can I say that? Is there a singular?). I am at my mom’s house right now (she’s vegetarian) and I haven’t had pork in almost two weeks. Writing this post is getting me hungry for some pig.
The steak, rare and peppery – the egg on top complemented the plantains with the runny yolk. The red beans that came along with it were awesome – tasted just like some that I’d remembered fondly from Nicaragua (spicy with a nice pork flavor). It came with an avocado as well; I would have loved to wrap the whole platter up in a soft taco shell and devoured it. Bandeja Paisa means “Colombian Platter.” It came with the Chicharrones.
Strong to quite strong. This was one of the stars of the meal for me. I could eat fried yuca day and night, but this had a lightness to it I’d not tasted in my other fried yuca experiences. The best I’ve had for sure.
There was nothing that could prepare us for the flan. You could have told us that it was a bit firmer than regular flan, but that wouldn’t have done it. It was like a hard custard. I asked Eddy, our impresario, what the deal was, and he let me know that the cuisine they served was unapologetically Colombian. That’s something you can be proud of as an employee of an establishment. This was a good dessert, and we ate most of it, but it wasn’t your momma’s flan (unless your momma is from rural Colombia).
I gotta tell Gus over at Sanford’s (link) that this is the way to do fried bananas. His were good, but these were better. Whole bananas, light and crispy, sweet with just a hint of salt. These things are what you should get for dessert.
Here’s our video:
Guest Writer: Amy and Jonny
The IRL Arts Foundation and The Wandering Foodie thank Bogota Bistro for providing this meal.
141 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217