>> Nene's Colombian Food | Eat the World Los Angeles

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Nene's Colombian Food

COLOMBIA 🇨🇴
Prairie Avenue facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The small dining room is open and there are a couple seats in front.

In January of this year, the chef of La Casa de las Parrilladas in South Gate passed her business card for the brand new restaurant she said had just opened. This was housed in the former space of Rincón Ecuatoriano in Lawndale along Prairie Avenue, right along the neighborhood's zig-zagging border with Hawthorne.

At La Casa, the Colombian food was noticeably better than the Puerto Rican offerings, reflecting the true skills and roots of this chef. This made the promise of a new restaurant focusing on the traditional foods of Colombia very exciting, and a first look at the menu was no disappointment. Three pages offer a range of foods from breakfast to dinner and all the small plates and appetizers in between.

Batido de guanábana

While looking over the menu and deciding, give yourself a treat and order one of the fresh fruit juices or shakes like this batido de guanábana ($4, above). As always, you can combine the fruit with water or milk, the creamy latter option combined with crushed ice and fruit in the above version.

The back page of the menu is where to find starters and quick bites like their beef empanadas ($1.50 each, below). The deep fried corn pockets are filled with ground beef and plenty of flavorful spicing, but even better yet is served with a lovely spicy dipping ají. On a second visit, a takeout order after the meal was unable to proceed because a customer had called in and bought every last empanada made that day.

Four fried beef emapanadas with dipping sauce

The back page also has baked bread products like buñuelos, almojabanas, and pan de bono, the last two of which are recommended for anyone craving cheese. The listed tamal tolimense ($9.50, not shown) is unfortunately harder to get your hands on, only available during holidays and when large orders are placed.

Cheese is also an important part of the simple arepa con queso ($3.50, below), perhaps the most iconic offering from Colombia. These thin arepas come served with many of the plates that you might have for breakfast or lunch, but in its purest form it is also very enjoyable. The flattened corn cake is grilled with plenty of butter and offers a lot more richness than it may seem on first glance.

Arepa con queso

Ajiaco bogotano

Whenever an ajiaco makes its way to a menu, it is an easy decision to order. Ajiaco bogotano ($13.99, above) may appear like a simple chicken and potato soup, but there are three types of potatoes in there including the delicious small round papas criollas grown in the Andean highlands. Rice, avocado, and half an arepa are served with the soup, to be used as you like.

The broth is smooth and creamy from the dissolving of softer potatoes and mixing in the sour cream that it comes with. You will also taste the herb guascas, another ingredient that must be imported from Colombia. You will get capers as well, so throw those in and enjoy.

Frijoles paisas

The perception of Colombian food is often deservedly very heavy and meaty, with many thanks for that going to the massive bandeja paisa, the signature meal of the country designed to provide energy for a full day of work. For something (slightly) smaller, enjoy the frijoles paisas ($14.99, above and below), which centers itself around the bowl of namesake beans.

This dish originates from the Antioquia department around Medellín and inside the bowl are large hunks of chicharrón and zucchini along with the paisa pinto beans. Served alongside the beans is a plate of more fried chicharrón, fried patacones, half an arepa and the silky oily Colombian-style white rice. It makes for many different types of bites, all wonderful.

Zoomed in on the beans

Filete de pescado sudado

There are also a few seafood options on the menu, as Colombia has both Atlantic and Pacific Ocean coastlines. Along with fried whole tilapia and seafood stews, you can also get unique dishes like this filete de pescado sudado ($11.99, above). Do not be alarmed by the literal translation to "sweaty fish," as this preparation refers to the steaming it gets before having salsa slathered over.

The tomato-y, garlicky salsa is the star here and covers the fish, potatoes and yuca that come with it. You can get this preparation for chicken as well. Another sculpted mound of delicious rice and a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions make for a hearty meal.

📍 14607 Prairie Avenue, Lawndale, South Bay

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