>> El Molinito Restaurante Colombiano | Eat the World Los Angeles

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

El Molinito Restaurante Colombiano

COLOMBIA 🇨🇴
Washington Blvd. facade
COVID-19 UPDATE: The dining room is open.


While only Hawthorne or the area directly surrounding it could be mentioned as somewhat of an epicenter of Colombian food in Los Angeles, restaurants cooking that nation's food are generally spread out sparsely throughout the city. Even so, this stretch of Washington Blvd. through Pico Rivera seems a most unlikely place to find a restaurant that has been cranking out destination-worthy plates for Colombians from near and far, and a neighborhood favorite for almost 20 years.

When you enter, there is a small area that can get cramped with people picking up orders or getting food to go, but around the corner is a very comfortable dining room with plenty of art, handicrafts, and other recuerdos de Colombia. A TV is tuned to a Colombian channel or football on weekends and often times a good percentage of the tables are in use by couples or families.

Calentado breakfast

If you take a seat at one of them close to opening, a strong list of breakfasts will probably catch your eye. At the top of the list is the calentado ($12.95, above), named for the frijoles calentados that make for a hearty breakfast with plenty of calories and protein for working the land all day. In English they call this "mix platter," which hints towards a variety of other items that come alongside the beans and rice.

Any respectable breakfast must include an arepa de queso, which is very good here. Two eggs come over easy unless you request them another way, and a thin piece of carne asada finishes the mix and is somehow the weakest part if you have to pick one. Mix it with bites of eggs, beans, or rice and it works just fine.

Full takeout order

On this visit the breakfast was so satisfying that an order of more to take home could not be passed up and quite a few options were requested. If you do the same, be sure to check the order before you leave as they do get quite busy with takeout orders and mistakes can be made. This order was unfortunately missing two pieces of pan de bono and two empanadas, only a $6 error but still sad as they were both looked forward to very much.

The rest of the order was delicious enough to ease any resentment, starting quickly with the pollo sudado ($13.95, below), on-the-bone chicken that is made into a "sweaty" stew consisting of tomatoes and other vegetables. Potatoes and yuca make this a very hearty dish, and since it is served over a bed of rice it can probably feed two people easily.

Pollo sudado

Tamal Tolimense still wrapped in banana leaf

If your fellow breakfast diners are not enjoying dishes with eggs, they will probably have a tamal tolimense ($8.25, above and below) in front of them. This style of tamal is from the high altitude Andean department of Tolima, but has become popular throughout the country and in expat communities abroad. Once again it packs a high calorie punch for breakfast, usually the heartiest meal in Colombia.

These tamales are wrapped in banana leaves, keeping the masa and rice base of the dish very moist with all the fats of various sources. Pork ribs and pork belly are joined with a full drumstick of chicken. Potatoes, carrots, peas and a boiled egg are all included as well, covering just about all the bases. If you want the true spirit of a cold mountain morning, add a hot chocolate to enjoy next to your tamal.

Tamal Tolimense

Shift northward in Colombia to Antioquia department, where in its mountainous regions was born frijoles paisas ($14.95, below). Inside the bowl are large hunks of pork belly and small bits of vegetables along with the paisa pinto beans. The ripe tomatoes, onions, and the spicing makes this deeply savory, a touch sweet, and very satisfying.

Served alongside the beans is a plate of fried chicharrón, fried patacones, an arepa, and the silky oily Colombian-style white rice. It makes for many different types of bite combinations, all wonderful. Any order here will also include the bright green ají so you can spice up anything. Since there were no empanadas to drizzle this over, it worked well with bits of chicharrón and patacones, as well as the tamal tolimense.

Frijoles paisas

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