If you want to be enchanted for a an hour or so, visit Los Tres Ojos, early on a Sunday morning. Then only the touts and tour guides will harass you on the surface.
Once you get down into the caves, it will just be you, a turtle, bats, fish, and lots of humidity. Pay the ferryman for the barge ride and enjoy the hidden world on the other side. With the entrance fee (up top) and the ferryman, it’s a cheap hour’s distraction. I think it was 100 pesos and 25 for the ride (2 bucks and 50 cents). Los Tres Ojos is located right off a major highway in Santo Domingo, and ten minute drive from colonial part of town.
There are a lot of stairs…
Having “done” this by 11 a.m., I felt quite good about going out to lunch before taking an epic siesta.
There’s a well known secret about Buenos Aires. Actually, there are more, but here are two gastronomic ones.
One is that there are “secret” restaurants to go to (sort of like the inadvertent secrets in Dhaka). The concept is a fixed menu in someone’s home and you pay a suggested amount. It’s all sort of furtive and illicit, therefore enticing. The concept is the same as in Washington, DC and other cites.
In BA (that’s what the they call Buenos Aires), I went to a former secret restaurant. Instead of being located behind the closed door at the back of a garage, it’s now open to the street. Called Nola, it was started by a Louisiana expat, and it serves some good ol’ food. It was the best fried chicken in the city. The fried chicken has crispy batter. The sweetbreads with red pickled onions makes a savory bowl of crunchy goodness. The cornbread was more like a bread pudding and the tea, it was sweet. Best go early for BA, around eight, so that you don’t have to stand while eating your chicken. As the place filled up, the patrons spilled out onto the sidewalk through the open front. The restaurant looked like a former garage. They have a few desserts as well, including a cupcake sized blueberry pie. While the prices were not cheap, Nola was as sweet as its pie.
The second secret in BA is the “speakeasy,” A speakeasy refers to a bar that is hidden, just like back during Prohibition in the U.S. In current-day BA, these are bars with a fake entrance. The one that I went to had an innocent looking bakery as its facade. We went in and walked to the back “brick” wall. I imagining a secret knock or handshake would be required. But, we simply told the hostess that we wanted to go “to the back” and she let us through. Once through the looking glass, we entered a world of Victorian England, and I half hoped to see Johnny Depp swish or sway past wearing a cape. Alas, other than the disproportionate number of tall blondes, the only swaying I saw was a short gold lamé skirt that glittered and glistened as its owner made forays to the powder room.
While there are thousands of restaurants in Washington, DC, few of them truly transport you overseas with one bite of huitlacoche. Sitting around the card table at Taqueria Jugalita will make you feel like you are on an adventure. If you want to go too, here’s how:
1. “Atencion: Solamente Sabado y Domingo, 7 am A 7 pm”
2. Choose your teammates… exclude anyone who cannot handle sitting on a plastic chair in someone’s living room.
3. Cash only. BYOB if you want B. Otherwise, they sell soft drinks.
4.Go to 1445 Park Road, #211, Washington, DC 20010 (That block of Park Road is a tiny example of world fusion with Los Hermanos and a pho restaurant side by side). Ring on the doorbell, wait for the keys to be thrown down to you. Go up to apartment (do not take elevator as it may not work).
5. Try something “bizarre” like beef tongue taco, corn smut (“huitlacoche” – “wheat la coach eh” in my non-phonetic phonetic), or organ meat. Try the sauces on the table. The portion sizes are also “normal” so not as huge (for example, the quesadilla is about the size of a taco since it’s made from one home made corn tortilla — see photo below).
6. Expect to pay $3.50 per taco (so $7 for a plate or around $14 for a meal). It’s not dirt cheap food and not as cheap as street food from a food truck.
A treasure trove packed into a riddle. Villa Ideas (formerly Ideas Manzil) is a guesthouse (ranked high on TripAdvisor) but it’s also a shop and a restaurant. They have set menus and the food is freshly made. It’s good. We went for lunch and to shop, and the staff at Ideas Manzil had decorated the table with flowers, textiles, and silver salvers. There is a wood carpenter, a leather worker, and a weaver on staff. The range of what one can have made seems endless: leather bottle holders, leather coasters, wood doors, carved fabric hangers… plus all the stuff to buy: boxes, brass, jewelry, Bhutanese textiles, Nepalese rugs, Bangladeshi folk art, lamps, vases, carved wooden walls and spandrels on carved columns (family crest carved into the wood — why not?)…
One must make an appointment to shop here. The proprietor says that he will open a retail corner but… can it remain interesting? Finally, will this place last? Will it remain interesting once my friends have bought all the treasures collected over a lifetime?
Also, does a fabulous job on meals which must be ordered in advance.