I know that it is the general convention that dishes, food, is best tasted at the source. I think that does some disservice to the diaspora and fusion food that has evolved over the millennia. That said, here is a list of food that I often crave. Actually, for many of the dishes, I prefer in their newer form. But, then again… some I prefer at the source.
Ceviche — I like the classic old fashioned version. The Peruvians love fusion. They are a fusion and so is their food. So now one can find “warm ceviche” and ceviche not made with fish.
Danish hotdog — I prefer them in Denmark. The actual hotdog is special, the ketchup is different, the dog is served with crunchy fried onions… New York pizza — also, one of those things. Some say that the New York pizza is like a Neopolitan pizza from Naples, Italy. We shall see… Hamburger — Some of the best I’ve had are in the United States. American beef and lack of gristle in the mix. Banh mi — I’ve had good ones outside of Vietnam. Pho — Also, good in the certain parts of the United States. Very bland in other places. Korean BBQ — If one sticks to the pork belly, then it’s fairly easy to get good Korean barbecue in many countries. I think that many people think that bulgogi should be made with a high grade of beef and grilled at the table. Traditionally, bulgogi was created to use bad cuts of meat that required marinating. Usually the slices are so thin that grilling at the table dries them out. Some places use good cuts of steak and then one can dip them in sesame seed oil and salt. This is a delicious way to eat barbecue. Chicken wings — Oddly, some of the best barbecue wings I’ve had were in a pizzeria in New Mexico. Dim sum — can be good in many places outside China.
Laksa — so far the best I’ve had, and even some of the mediocre, was in Singapore and Malaysia. What can I say?
Most of all, the food of other lands transports you to them.
*******Update October 19, 2019****** Since Peruvians love hamburgers, it’s hard to pick the best, since there are so many burgers to try… But, for the fun of it, I will. At most places, the meat patty is about 250 grams. Peruvians like a meaty burger. Not thin patties.
1. Don Doh: Given that one of the co-owners is the butcher who runs Osso, I’d expect the burger to be good. The black bun is slightly chewy and moist due to the squid ink that makes it black. Inside the burger is a good 200 grams and made with chopped kimchi.
2. Osso: It’s a steak house so they should have a good burger. The burger is actually a chopped steak burger. It’s meaty. But, the fries are what makes me keep coming back.
3. Sushi Pop: Thin and made from Angus beef. The patties are more like Five Guys in the U.S. As you can see below, it’s hard to find the patties under the cheese, sauce, and fried onion… but the meat was good even if it was hard to find. Next time I’ll get it without the sauce. Sushi Pop serves the burger on a “bao” or steamed bun.
4. Cosme: The burger is good.It’s just another secret thing about Cosme.
5. Papachos: They no longer have a Wagyu or Kobe. The “luxury” Angus burger is a solid burger. I’m told that many think that the burgers are too salty. I didn’t think so.
6. Juicy Lucy: This burger isn’t that large but it’s a solid tasting burger. The fries are local round potatoes. (This chain is from the same owner of Carnal so at Carnal you can get the sinfully delicious version of the juicy lucy.)
7. Bon Beef: The burger is a burger much like at Fridays or Chilis. Bon Beef is that sort of place.
8. Django Burgers, Hipolito unanue 101, Miraflores (10th block of Ejercito): good burger. so so fries.
Okay, eight. Then there are these other places that have been recommended to me or that I have been to:
Cafe A Bistro: This gas station bistro was recommended to me for their burger. I thought it was okay until I hit a piece of cartilage (set the grind on a finer size!). Then I stopped.
El Jefe: It’s a burger but I didn’t find the meat tasty and it had that mealy cardboard texture that makes me think of certain fast food chains…
Food Rockers (not Fuddruckers): Located a bit off the beaten track in San Borja, this place has a burger but it’s the black ice cream that’s worth the visit. More about that in another blog posting.
Quisso: First raclette based restaurant in Lima. They melt cheese on everything including an artisanal burger freshly ground for the restaurant.
I have not been to this place but, Hamburguesas Artesanales, Av. Gral. Eugenio Garzón 977, Jesús María, won the 2018 Burger Fest.
Hamburgers are a popular food here in Bogota. There are so many hamburger restaurants here that I can’t keep there names apart. But, when I want a burger, these are the places that I’d recommend Xarcuteria, located down the street from McDonalds in Parque 93. This place grinds their own meat, makes their own sausages, and they make good burgers. Some people find the experience unpleasant because they perceive that the waitstaff aren’t nice to non-Spanish speakers. I don’t really care. But, recently I’ve found that the mushrooms (on my burger) have something funky going on that is not so much to my taste. A burger with fries (not included) costs about US $23.
Agadon, Carrera 13 # 85-75 across from the Sofitel, was the place recommended to me. Lots of people like these hamburgers. I don’t but that doesn’t mean that others won’t.
Street Gourmet, a food cart on Parque Virrey and 19A (technically that corner of Parque Virrey is Calle 88 but just walk down the park). This is my new favorite burger joint. The chef is Belgian as are the fries (or Dutch depending on their provider). They also grind their own beef. With two tables and picnic blankets to borrow (where they will deliver your burger to you), the couple who run this place are smiley and charming. A huge burger (the buns are from a specialty baker), equally huge portion of “frites” and a small soda costs only 14,000 pesos (that’s under $7). The burger patty is a flatter style to fit the bun. Street Gourmet makes their own spicy sauce (and I insisted on mayonnaise for my Belgian fries), and a subtle garlic sauce. Yes, they also have vegetarian burgers (and they will even make a vegetarian burger with meat for you if you ask for it). The down side to this burger cart is that they are only open during lunch on the weekends. But, it’s a good reward for walking Ciclovia?
And then there is El Corral which is the Colombian answer to McDonalds. Carl’s Jr. is also opening up in Parque 93 so now I’m wondering if In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys will also enter the Colombian market?
100 restaurants in Bogota. No, I have not been to 100 restaurants in Bogota (like I did in Dhaka)… yet. I might get there accidentally. In Bogota, an emerging foodie city, there are thousands of restaurants. Here are my reviews of the ones I’ve tried to so far (though this list is not of 100, it made for a catchy title)… Strange to think that just a few weeks ago, I wondered what types of food I would not be able to get in Bogota). As usual, I have used my own rating system for this collection of bakeries, food stalls, restaurants, pubs, and other eateries. Abasto, Carrera 6 # 119B-52, Usaquen (11/13): Good and friendly service. The staff are as diverse as the goods offered. They offer food, fresh vegetables, fresh bread, cheese, candy, honey, jams, and so on. The crumble a la mode is delicious. Their bread is the best I’ve had in Bogota. It’s yeasty and actually smells like bread. Plus, I bought a roll of goat cheese (at a hefty $20) which was moldy and rolled in black ash. It was yummy and actually tasted like goat cheese.
Afternoon Tea, Carrera 15 No. 94-51 (12/13): Super friendly staff. Delicious, pillowy clouds of wheat, baked goods and bubble tea. It’s got an elegant interior (hip in the way that Bogota seems to like) and it is conducive to staying a while with friends. Afternoon Tea opened July 13, 2014 and I think they will become a hugely successful chain. Agadon, Carrera 13, No. 85-75, good for “American” dishes (12/13): Good fried winglets (called “alitas fritas” on the menu) appetizer. These are less breaded than the “fried chicken wings on waffle” which is a main course. The “alitas” cost about 13,500 pesos (about $7 U.S. bucks) and the “fried chicken wings” cost around 20,255 pesos (about $10). They also are known for their burgers. The baby back ribs fell off the bone and were pretty good. But, what was different here was, first, that bottles of Sriracha were on every table, and second, their pork belly buns. These “bun pork belly” are served in very authentic pillowy buns with pork belly slices that are fatty and livery. Supposed they are served with kimchi inside but it was more like a salad. Two buns per serving cost 20,255 ($10). This restaurant is one of the better restaurants around. Good for a date night and good for friends. I’ll be back in daylight with my camera! Antigua Santafe Sabor de Antano, Calle 11, No. 6-20, Candelaria (11/13): It claims to have the best ajiaco soup in the world. Located in Candelaria, this place could be much more touristy than it is. The juice (with milk!) was sweet and I’d never had that kind of fruit before so it is another one to add to my list of new fruits. The soup was filling and good. The use of “guasca” a local herb, adds a unique thickening agent and flavor to the soup. Adding my own avocado and rice just makes it even nicer. Burger Market, Calle 93, No. 13B-56, near Parque 93 (9/13): They grow some of their own vegetables. The burgers are acceptable. Tomato soup is made from their own tomatoes. El Oasis, Calle 47 with Carrera 15: (10/13) It’s a few open doors and counters like a mega-stall. “Best” empanadas in town. The picante “aji” sauce is really hot (on the Scoville scale). Who told me that things weren’t spicy in Bogota?
Gran China, Calle 77A # 11-70 (12/13): This place is owned by Taiwanese people and Chinese people eat here. It’s elegant in the old school Chinese restaurant way. Calle 77A is a sort of open plaza but the restaurant is tucked away and their sign is not visible from Carrera 11 so you have to wander down the street on blind faith, although I followed my nose. If you are Chinese and you know how to ask for spicy, you might actually get spicy here! They don’t seem to have a website but you can order delivery via domicilio.
Mercado, Parque 93, Calle 93 (8/13): They have salads, meat on a stick, ceviche, etc. Nothing special but okay. Portions are not huge. It is child-friendly.
Miro, Avenida La Esperanza, Carrera 43A, paella (5/13): It advertises “La paella desde 1963” which of course makes you wonder if the paella is from 1963. The best thing was the shrimp bisque. Museo de Tequila, Carrera 13A #86A-18 (Zona Rosa), Mexican food (6/13): It’s a sensory overload of Mexican kitsch. The “margarita tradicional” is served with a flower in it (a daisy which is a “margarita”) so it’s pretty and strong. While I liked their iPad visual menu, the service was too argumentative for my liking. The chips and salsa were small portions and getting more than ten nachos was a whole extra serving, at cost. The servings were unreliable. I didn’t like the weird miniscule quesadillas (the four quarters were about the size of two iPhones) but the burrito was a normal size portion and cost between $13-16 (I can’t recall exactly but I think it cost about the same as the margarita).
Restaurant Ramen, Calle 26C # 4 – 42 , La Macarena area, Japanese (6/13): I was hopeful once I saw the name. At least it was not obviously instant noodle (although I do like instant noodle — just not at a fancy ramen restaurant). The restaurant served deep fried fake crab pieces as a free appetizer. This seemed like a good sign. But, the ramen, tonkatsu, sushi roll, and salad were not Asian but the Colombian diner found it good. I could not finish my soup because the flavor was too bland while paradoxically, the egg was too salty.
Los Sanduches de Sr. Ostia, Calle 79A, #8-82, Andino mall and other locations, sandwiches (11/13): This place is famous for having the most “authentic” banh mi sandwich in Bogota. The banh mi is a good pork sandwich but it is not a banh mi. It lacks the pickle in the vegetables and there is no sriracha. It also has a green cream sauce which is definitely not Vietnamese. Next time, I may buy it and doctor it to make authentic. The bread roll was good and airy. Sushino, Avenida La Esperanza 44A-63, sushi/Japanese (3/13): The best thing was the lemonade. I tried the “Hong Kong” ceviche, the California roll (which were shaped like tear drops), and the “Eye of the Tiger” roll which involved several types of raw fish. It was all slightly off and dirty. The upstairs has two dining rooms of which the one is supposed to give the feel of a small bamboo forest patio but instead feels a bit like a zoo cage. The Ugly American Bar and Grill, Calle 81 #9-12, American food (7/13): Another swank bar cum restaurant. It’s in a basement so dark that reading the menu was done by light of an iPhone… but, everyone looks even paler and thinner in the darkness. The menu is fairly basic with some classic “gringo” foods. They didn’t have several of the items on the menu but my fish of the day was a white flaky filet. The Brussels sprouts had too much honey on them but were still very firm (I had to spoon them as I couldn’t get a fork into them and I didn’t want to launch them at my table mates in the dark). They didn’t have cheese cake or red velvet muffins… and the large slice of chocolate cake was so bland and boring that it was left on the plate! The best dessert they have is the “popcorn mousse” dessert. It was caramel corn in a jam jar filled with marshmallow fluff, some chocolate sauce which detracted from the dish, and topped with a caramel candy wedge. Wok, Parque 93 and other locations, pan-Asian food (9/13): Their menu is the size of a magazine and includes everything from ramen, curries, maki rolls and sashimi, pad thai, larb salads, and so on. They also offer various juices and grown-up drinks. I had to try the “inca roll” which consisted of a deep fried fish finger inside a rather bland roll. The outdoor seating is heated so that it’s not unbearably cold to dine outside. The interior is all blond wood and glass. They take credit cards and the toilet is clean. The clientele are the usual “boot-wearing, jean-wearing, involved with our own hipness” selves of Parque 93. There are still some restaurants out there that I’ve heard about… I’ll get there.
Recently, some of my Bangladeshi friends visited the U.S… which made me think about iconic American foods to make them try while visiting D.C. The following are some of my recommendations.
1. Krispy Kreme: Who does not love a freshly fried yeast doughnut, hot and fresh from a sugar glaze waterfall?
2. Five Guys and Shake Shack: The last decade has seen the rise of the new hamburger restaurant which makes me happy. Freshly made with fresh French fries – it sounds simple but we, the consumers, put up with so much less for too long. Five Guys is a nationwide chain that started a few miles from D.C. and if you have peanut allergies, you must stay away…
3. All-American classic restaurants and bars: These are classic modern restaurants and bars in the “old boys’ club” style of dark wood, etc. — The Hamilton, The Lincoln, and also Old Ebbitt Grill, the Willard, and Ray’s the Steaks.
4. Ben’s Chili Bowl: Visitors like this historic place which has recently become a chain and it will soon be opening a branch at National Airport.
5. Honey Pig (noisy Korean BBQ restaurant), To Sok Jib (hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant), and Bon Chon Chicken: Annandale, Virginia is a well known Korea-town but Bon Chon has just opened a branch in Clarendon. There is also Lighthouse Tofu which serves more than tofu and Oegadgib which serves all-you-can-eat Korean including shabu-shabu (shabu-shabu are the words you should say to time how long you swish your meat in the broth to cook it.).
6. Pho soup: Eden Center is a little Vietnam in Falls Church, Virginia, where the restaurants serve pho and other Vietnamese food.
7. Ravi Kabob: It’s a northern South Asian/Pakistani place that is “hole-in-the-wall” and serves delicious food. The most famous local chain is Moby Dick’s.
8. Edy’s Chicken or El Pollo Rico: It’s Peruvian style rotisserie chicken. Anthony Bourdain went to El Pollo Rico but I like that Edy’s serves yucca fries. There are also several other Peruvian style restaurants in the area where you can explore some of this world famous cuisine, although I’m still waiting for the celebrity chef level restaurants to open.
9. Ramen shops: This is a fairly new trend in American food, thanks in part to David Chang of Momofuku, and I like the trend. Yummy, homemade soup. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but it is.
10. El Salvadorean food: Try a fresh pupusa as the El Salvadorean population begins to emerge on the culinary scene (there are not that many Mexican places in this area but Jugalita is authentic).
Of course there are also many Ethiopian restaurants to try and loads of food carts serving all manner of new American foods (Korean kalbi taco, anyone?). Every new group of immigrants contributes a new flavor to American cuisine.
When tourists visit the U.S., many want to try Chipotle and other famous restaurants. I recommend using Yelp to find the locations. Speaking of American foods, there is, of course, pie, lobster, grits, collard greens, chicken and waffles, barbecue, etc. to be had here in D.C., but, maybe I’ll write about that another time. And not to forget, I’ve done some research and it looks like there is only one Colombian restaurant in the area… y claro, por supuesto, voy a visitarlo.