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Tierra Colombiana

Tierra Colombiana is a large Cuban and Colombian restaurant in North Philadelphia, on 5th street, just east of 1. It’s not in the loveliest of neighborhoods. But it does offer plenty of parking. And despite its unfortunate location, the restaurant itself is pretty cute, and certainly the cutest structure for blocks around.
The restaurant itself is quite large, with plenty of tables. They bring out some free bread, and it’s yummy. It’s warm and grilled. The menu is extensive, with both Cuban and Colombian dishes. They also have a large selection of fresh fruit smoothies. I got a passion fruit smoothie made with milk. It was delicious and had an extremely strong passion fruit flavor. R got a soursop smoothie, and I got a trigo smoothie.
We started with a number of appetizers. The aranitas is shredded plantain fritters served with garlic sauce. It was basically shredded plantain fries served with a garlic sauce, which tasted a bit like ranch dressing. We got two different empanadas, one with cheese and one with chicken. They were both good but the cheese one wasn’t too exciting. I enjoyed the chicken one much more. Lastly, we got the maduro frito con queso, which was a whole sweet plantain with a strip of cheese. Although rather unattractive looking and phallic, the dish was good, and the cheese is nice and mild.
For our entrees, L got the ceviche de camarones, from the Colombian menu. It is shrimp in lemon sauce with onions and cilantro. When you order most entrees, you also get to select a side and your choice of rice. For his entree, I got the arroz con camarones, also from the Colombian menu. It is a shrimp and rice casserole, and I was lucky enough to taste this, and loved it. I could totally get this myself next time.

R and I both ordered from the cuban side of the menu. Essentially, we ordered the same dish, only hers was sliced pork, and mine was big hunks of pork. They both came with black rice, which was actually white rice with black beans, steamed cassava, which was basically like a steamed potato, cuban tamale, which was a cuban style tamale, and plantains. This was tons of food. Their portions are more than generous. I was actually getting full from the bread, the smoothie, and the appetizers. By the time we got to the entrees, I barely made a dent in it. Regardless, it was delicious, all of it. The leftovers were delicious.

Service is adequate and frienly. Prices are reasonable for the giant portions you get. But best of all, the food is great. So if you’re up for the drive to the hood, it’s a nice outing.
Tierra Colombiana on Urbanspoon

NYC Swanksville

I asked a friend who used to live in NYC, or at least across the way, where to eat dinner. He, being a Cuban, recommended Asia de Cuba. Then he went on to tell me about how there is a significant population of Chinese in Cuba. They’ve been there since the mid-1800’s, when they were brought in to work the sugar fields. Sound familiar? And they stayed and married Cuban and Chinese cuisine together. Who knew?

Asia de Cuba is in midtown, as part of the Morgans hotel. Now the thing is, Morgans does not have a sign. We had to guess, just by the numbers on other buildings, if that was the Morgans. And Asia de Cuba has a teeny tiny “sign” that you could so easily miss also. Really, we wouldn’t mind if there was a sign. It could prove helpful. Asia de Cuba itself is not that big, but they make good use of the space. There are recessed booths on the edges, smatterings of tables next to the booths, and a cafeteria style table in the middle, that seats about 24 or so. The ceiling is high, and on the second floor, there are some more small tables along the perimeter, overlooking the first floor. The place claims to be swanky, and it is.

We had an early reservation as we had to eat, catch the A train, and head up to Washington Heights. We were seated promptly and our effervescent waiter asked us if we’d dined there before. Once he found out we were newbies, he recommended that since the portions were large, for two he would recommend two appetizers, an entrée, and a side dish. Sounded good with us. In the meantime, we ordered a mojito and another drink whose name I forget. They were very attractive drinks. Much more attractive than the people drinking them. My drink was good and strong, the mojito was the best. It was truly the best mojito we’d ever had. I’m not crazy about them, but this one was so good. And it came with a stick of actual sugar cane you could gnaw on. Yum. They were strong too, and we could both feel them. We were excited about riding the subway drunk.

We decided to go with the calamari salad, and when we told our waiter, he said it was large, so we should probably just stick with one appetizer. Kudos to him for not trying to milk extra money out of us. Bravo. This salad was indeed ginormous. It comes with the fancy greens, crispy fried calamari, chayote (which we’d never had before, looks like green apple, tastes like nothing but has a nice crunch), hearts of palm (which J had never had but I had eaten plenty of in Brazil), banana, and cashews, in a sesame orange dressing. The dressing was very light, not too sesame-y or orange-y. The calamari were the best part. It was a great salad.
As an entrée, we went with the honey rum glazed pot roast of pork. You can never go wrong with pork in a Cuban restaurant, or a Chinese restaurant for that matter. This came with some good hunks of fatty and juicy pork, sautéed baby bok choy, fried plantains, and enoki mushrooms. The sauce was strong, and the flavor was everywhere. You could see big chunks of thick bacon that had been in the juice. Those had extremely strong flavors. I loved everything. And with that salad, it was plenty of food. We also got some plantain fried rice with avocado salad. It was basically fried rice with some plaintain chunks topped with guacamole. It wasn’t anything special. So that was the lowlight of the meal. But it was a good accompaniment to the strong flavors of the entrée.

The service was good and attentive. The place does get loud when people start filling up, but what are you gonna do. You’re in a hip NYC restaurant, who doesn’t want to yap? The sociological highlight of the evening was the cafeteria table in the middle. A party of 11 high school girls, all perfect and blonde, were having some type of celebration. How come when I was in high school, I didn’t go to hip expensive restaurants? I feel jipped. Then, a party of 11 college men, all perfect in their button down striped shirts, were also having some type of celebration. You can’t even plan that kind of stuff.
Asia de Cuba on Urbanspoon

Cuban birthday bash

On Saturday I went to my first birthday party for 3 year old twin girls. I love party food because I love appetizer and hors d’oeuvre type of stuff. I never order that type of stuff when I go out to eat, but I love to eat it at parties. Half of the party is of Cuban descent, so there were lots of Cuban dishes. But there was certainly one of my favorite classic party foods – deviled eggs! I love me some deviled eggs. And these were delish.

We also had cheese and crackers, some fruit, some 7-layer dip (or 7-ish), guacamole from Whole Foods (surprisingly zesty and good), and a baked brie for the appetizer type stuff. For entrees, we had Cuban goodness – rice and black beans, tortilla (not Mexican tortilla), baked ziti, salad, and tamal en cazuela.

The rice and black beans were great. The hostess said she had messed up the beans, but then the host miraculously salvaged them. I wouldn’t have even noticed. The tortilla is not flat round flour or corn based coverings for tacos or burritos. It’s an egg dish, and this one had potatoes in it. Baked in a round dish, sort of like a fritatta. I didn’t eat it, but I heard it was a bit bland. The ziti were delish, but nothing even came close to the tamal en cazuela. Basically, the tamal is if you took tamale innards, and didn’t put them in the corn husks to physically make tamales. Instead, you cooked it in a pot. Normally, they make it with chunks of pork, but because the hosts were vegetarian, abuela made this version meat free. But it was still great. But I’m sure it would have been heavenly if it had big chunks of pork in it. As Anthony Bourdain says, everything tastes better with pork.

There was cake, of course, and crazy 3 year old girls putting out candles when they wish, not when we were done singing. They also do a great job of eating rice with their hands. I had no idea that this party would have so much food, and such excellent Cuban food. The best 3 year-old twin birthday party ever.
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