1640 North El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672
Yes we eat our fair share of burgers, Italian, and Mexican food on this blog, but we also like branching out, and trying other kinds of food. No, I'm not going to stop eating my favorites, but we had a good experience with Colombian a few years back, and wanted to give it another try. We were coming down this way to visit our friend who was in a rehab facility, and decided this would be the opportune time to give Colombian food a try again.
I had heard about La Colombiana the way a lot of people have, through an article written about them in Westways Magazine. In that article, the author described this restaurant as a meat lover's paradise, and that's all I had to hear to put them on my list of restaurants to try. The Westways article came out earlier this year, and we finally made it in to see if this would be better than our first foray with Colombian food.
We arrived at about 8pm on a recent Saturday night. The restaurant is within shouting distance of Riders Club, and there was plenty of parking right next door at the closed Bread Gallery Bakery. We showed up without a reservation, but were seated promptly on the darkened patio out front. We could have eaten inside, but there was a guy singing inside, and it was rather loud.
The menu here is dotted with all of the Colombian staples. There's eight appetizers offered, along with 11 entrees, all of which are the recipes of the owner, Eddy. She settled in San Clemente via Colombia many years ago, and wanted to share her passion of Colombian cuisine with her community. She's a very hands on owner, as we saw her talking with customers, clearing tables, and running food. I was pretty hungry by this point, and looked forward to seeing the food hit our table. Let's see how it all came out for us.
First up was an appetizer, the Colombian Empanadas ($9.95). These were filled with beef, onion, tomatoes, and potatoes. The outside is a corn and flour dough, which is a little more structurally sturdier than their Argentine empanada cousins I have tried. The insides of these were good, but made much better with the provided aji, which is described on the menu as Colombian salsa. It had real depth of flavor. I got some hints of cilantro, onion, and citrus notes when using this condiment, which Katie liked to use liberally on her entree as well as these empanadas.
Speaking of entrees, they were not too far behind our appetizer, and let's take a look at Katie's selection on this evening, the Pollo Asado ($12.95). This featured grilled chicken, marinated in citrus juice. Anytime our waitress came by, Katie gushed about how much she enjoyed this meal. The chicken was tender, and had added flavor from the grill and the marinade. This meal was rounded out by plantains, rice, and a Colombian salad, which is really more of a slaw in my opinion, but if they want to call it a salad, who am I to judge.
I once described the national dish of Colombia as a Grand Slam Breakfast on steroids, and after eating this, I'd stand by this statement. This Bandeja Colombiana ($17.95) was a much better version of this dish, than I had during my first time eating Colombian food. This plate of food featured a portion of carne asada, a chorizo link, beans and rice, a fried egg, an arepa, and was finished with plantains. Of course the meats were the stars of the show for me here. The carne asada was flavorful, with some tender bites included. The chorizo was a tougher grind than most people would enjoy, but I liked the meatiness of it. The beans and rice, mixed together with the yolk from the egg created a very hearty portion, which you could imagine sticking to your ribs. I'm also not much of a plantain fan, but these were a pretty good version. Smashed, and then fried, they were not overly sweet, and went well with this plate. The arepa, which is like a cheese/corn patty was definitely another highlight here. It paired nicely with the aji provided. A very satisfying meal, and a good choice for first timers to Colombian cuisine.
We finished up our night at La Colombiana with Colombian Style Flan ($4.95). I kind of felt this was like the other flan versions I have had, but a little less sweet. It had a creamy structure, with a slightly less sugary caramel sauce. A nice end to our meal.
The flan above kind of helped me sum up what I believe to be Colombian food. I'm of course not an expert on this country's cuisine, but I'd summarize Colombian cuisine as good, solid, and stick to your ribs kind of food, that does not rely on big pops of flavor from it, or its condiments. The aji does not add spice, but it adds another flavor element to the food. It's definitely worth a try if you have never tried Colombian food, and La Colombiana is definitely the only game in town when it comes to South OC. With Colombian food no longer being served at Mitzi's Kountry Kitchen in Laguna Hills, this is your only Colombian option south of Santa Ana. We experienced great service on this evening. The restaurant is pretty small, and not going to awe you with its decor, but it is homey, and a comfortable restaurant to dine in. I'm glad we gave Colombian food another try.
Out of five roses, (because the country of Colombia is one of the main producer and exporter of roses worldwide, so many of those roses you see in next weeks Rose Parade could be from Colombia), five being best to zero being worst, La Colombiana gets 3.5 roses.
To find out more information about La Colombiana, go to their website here: http://www.lacolombianaoc.com/