Colombia on Your Plate at Colombian Cuisine Restauarant

I'm beginning to wonder if I may have a fetish for strip center restaurants, as I look at the posts I've submitted..., there seems to be a theme. That notwithstanding, if the food is good, the location is irrelevant. This is certainly true when it comes to Colombian Cuisine Restaurant (13920 Westheimer). The name of the restaurant is as basic as its appearance, but there's so much more than meets the eye.

Located on Westheimer just east of Highway 6 and open since 1992, this nice and relaxed restaurant serves up some good Latin food. We stopped by Saturday night and were surprised by how slow it seemed. This was my husband's first visit, so he was a bit concerned; to allay his concerns, I ordered up some beers and a couple of empanadas.

As usual, the corn empanadas were nice and crisp with a mild potato and ground beef filling. I like topping them with the house hot sauce, which is very similar to a chimichurri, but with vinegar, a bit of habanero pepper for heat, and finely diced bell peppers and onions. This sauce is magical on their meats as well.

As we gobbled down the empanadas, we got busy figuring out what to eat. I must admit I was perturbed to see a good number of Mexican options on the menu, and I had to ask what was up. Lisette, our attentive waitress, explained the owner wanted to ensure there were familiar options for those patrons who may not be as comfortable (or willing to be adventurous) with Colombian food. Makes sense, I guess, and I could write a whole post on this single issue, but I digress. Back to the menu.

I kept eyeing the Lengua Criolla, beef tongue in a tomatoey sauce. Lisette assured me it was divine; I decided to trust her. On my suggestion, the hubby ordered the Bandeja Paisa. This Colombian classic is a carnivore's wet dream: a slab of skirt steak cooked perfectly rare, a couple of homemade chorizo links, chicharrón and an egg to top it all off. The chorizo was thick and pork meaty, the kind I grew up eating, similar to andouille sausage, but spiced with achiote. The chicharrón makes my heart beat faster and my mouth water just thinking about it. We Latinos have a love affair with this porky goodness. Here in the US there are pork rinds, but to us, chicharrón comes with some meat, some fat and the skin/rind, lightly salted and cooked till tender, then fried to a crisp. When it's done right, the fat is firm, the rind is crisp and it crackles as you bite into it. It is pork heaven.

Shall we talk about that Lengua Criolla? Yes, lets. The tongue was tender and flavorful; it tastes a lot like brisket. It is served with a tomato based sauce that begins with sofrito, a combination of aromatics, stewed in the sauce with potatoes and carrots. It was delicious, just as promised. Both meals were served with white rice, awesome kidney beans and sweet fried plantains. The husband is now a believer and you will be too.

Colombian Cuisine Restaurant is kind to your pocket and they serve lunch specials daily for as low as $7.99. Add this one to your list of restaurants you must visit. What about you? Where do you go for down-home food? Drop me a line and tell me which one to visit next.

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