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puerto rican

Puerto Rican At Cafe Colao

I told E about a Puerto Rican spot to try out, and she was all for it. Actually having some Puerto Rican heritage, she was totally in. Cafe Colao is in a random location. It’s sort of in between fishtown and kensington, a little bit north of Girard on 5th street. There’s a mexican restaurant on the corner next to Cafe Colao, but there’s not much else there other than abandoned lots. When we got there, we were the only people eating. So yeah, it’s not on a particularly bustling thoroughfare. There’s a sign outside saying it’s under new management, and that it’s Dominican cuisine. Well, we’re not sure whether it’s Dominican or Puerto Rican, but we were going for it anyway.The inside is bright and airy and cheery, but there’s no ambiance here at all. E ordered a Cola Champagne so that she could reminisce about the days of old. I’ve never had one of these before and it’s basically just fizzy sugar water, with a slightly odd flavor. And we both couldn’t quite put our fingers on what the exact flavor is. But to me, it tastes like a type of artificially flavored fruity candy. It does not taste like cola nor does it taste like champagne. It’s its own unique sweet flavor.
We got an order of the fried chicken, which came with rice, fried sweet plantains, and beans. The chicken was crispy and not greasy, with no batter. This is good for me because I am one to actually remove batter. And it’s random pieces of chicken, so for those of you only interested in juicy white meat, move along! The plantains were awesome and so were the beans. The beans are soupy, but super tasty, with just the right spice.
Here is what we really came for – the mofongo. This is the shrimp mofongo. What is mofongo? I had no idea what it was until I ate it. It is a dish made with mashed plantains (that’s the mofongo part), filled with shrimp and veggies and then topped with more shrimp and veggies. And it’s delicious! It’s like a little starchy dome made out of mashed plantains, and then the shove meats and veggies inside, and then top it with more of the meats and veggies. There’s all kinds of spices used to prepare the meat and I don’t know what they use, I just know it tastes good. It was truly unlike anything I’ve tasted before and I’m definitely going to try it again!
One big piece of advice – be careful with reading and interpreting the menu. I thought that all of the menu items had the english name first with the spanish description below it. Oh hoow wrong I was! Actually, they have the spanish name of the dish first and then the english description below it. But, not all of them have an english description below it. And really, they probably don’t put english descriptions for the dishes they don’t want non-spanish speakers to try. Which is what totally happened to me here!

I wanted the oxtail and I thought that “mondongo”, which was below that, was the spanish for oxtail. Oh no no no! Mondongo, was just mondongo, and it wasn’t oxtail at all, but instead, it was a tripe soup. Ooh boy. I am not a tripe hater, and I can eat tripe in certain things, but a giant bowl of tripe just is not for me. The soup itself was fine, but the tripe had such a distinct innard smell that I could not get over. If it wasn’t for the smell, I would have been fine with it. The texture of tripe can offend some people but I don’t have a problem with it. What I had a problem with was the overwhelming smell of insides. When I ordered this mondongo, the server seemed a bit surprised. And I asked what it was and she said it was a soup. So I figured, oh, it’s an oxtail soup! Awesome! But no, it turned out to be soup full of tripe. You would think she would have mentioned the tripe to me, but oh she most certainly did not. So that was my lesson learned people! Be careful reading the menu!

The service isn’t the best. Everyone was super nice, but they’re not particularly attentive, and we did not get our water refilled at all. There is a tiny bit of outdoor dining as well and it’s BYOB and cash only. Everything is quite affordable. If you’re willing to make the trek, go for a visit, but watch out for surprise tripe!
Café Coláo on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Sabor – BYOB In Maryland

I had to head down to nowheresville, MD for work, so I did a little research (of course), and stopped at Restaurant Sabor for dinner. Located in a random strip mall, Sabor boasts a puerto rican chef and a varied menu with latin american and mediterranean flavors. It is a BYOB, and not only does it have an open kitchen (which I love), it also has a community table. It’s a lovely place, a bit on the fancier side, but not snooty.

The complimentary amuse bouche of a venison ragout served over a sweet plantain puree. Man, seeing as how good this was, I knew I was in for a great meal. They also give you complimentary bread. Instead of boring regular flour bread, they give you housemade corn bread. And the best part is that they give you whipped honey butter to eat with it. Oh dear lord, there’s nothing better than corn bread slathered with whipped honey butter!

I love beets, so I got the beet salad. It was hunks of red and golden beets served over grilled chickory, with citrus segments, goat cheese, some greens, and crushed pistachios, in a xerez vinaigrette. This was a lovely salad. The beets were fresh and definitely not from a can! I wasn’t sure if I liked goat cheese, but I soon learned that I don’t like it. It was fine though, I just ate my way around it. I didn’t like the chickory either, so I also left that on the plate. But I fully enjoyed everything else.

For my entree, I wasn’t exactly sure what to get. I thought about the fish options but wasn’t convinced. The champagne sauce for the turbot didn’t strike me and neither did the hazelnut dressing on the trout. They also had a daily special of beef bourgignon but I wasn’t convinced about that either. So eventually, I picked the red wine braised beef ribs. This was a ginormous portion of bone in rib. It was super tender and the meat just fell off the bone with very little effort. I liked this a lot, but it wasn’t the greatest. I felt like it could have used a bit more flavor. The rib was served on top of a potato/parsnip puree seasoned with horseradish. The horseradish was pretty much undetectable. It was ok, but I would have preferred plain mash. The parsnip taste didn’t do it for me. There were also some zesty pickled shallots and the seasonal veggies which were grilled spaghetti squash and brussel sprouts. I enjoyed this other veg very much. All in all, it was a good entree, but not great. It was tons of food too, so there was plenty left over. It was also a bit on the pricey side. I wouldn’t have minded if it was a bit less food, and a bit less dollars.

I was beyond stuffed to even consider dessert, but that was ok because nothing from the dessert menu really screamed out my name. The service was excellent, for the most part. Up until I got my check, everything was great. After my server gave me my check, he pretty much disappeared. It took him way too long to pick it back up. But that was just a minor glitch in an otherwise lovely dinner. So for those of you in this neighborhood, definitely stop by.
Sabor on Urbanspoon

Puerto Rican Fried Fest

For my last day in Seattle proper, we explored the Ballard neighborhood. After checking out one cute ass store after another, we got some lunch at La Isla, a puerto rican restaurant. I’ve eaten all kinds of ethnic foods, but I’ve never actually eaten puerto rican food before. So this was a first.
The place is pretty small, and the tables are packed quite close together. There is also outdoor seating. Everything is bright and colorful with ethnic art all over the place. We got there fairly early, and it was pretty much empty, but it started filling up quickly.
We got the plato de aperitivo, which was a sampler of their appetizers. We picked ours with shrimp empanada, veggie alcapurria, bacalaito, and tostones. The shrimp empanada kicked ass. I really loved it. The alcapurria was pretty good too. The bacalaito I did not care for. It’s a cod fritter, and to me, it just seemed like fried hard fish. The tostones were good too, but fairly plain.
For our main dishes, we both ended up getting empanada lunch specials. A got the papa empanada, which is made with a potato filling. She got plain rice.
I got the ground beef empanada, which was good, but nothing exciting. I preferred the shrimp one. I got mine with their rice and beans, which was quite amazing. And the sauce accompanying the empanadas is good too. But really, did I need so much?
Service was good, prices were quite reasonable. Although perhaps everything was a bit too deep fried for me, it was a fun introduction to puerto rican food. I would definitely try it again, but perhaps I’ll venture into the non fried category.
La Isla on Urbanspoon

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