Mi Colombia

Go now, before the liquor license and the long lines to get in

Mi Colombia

1614 E. Seventh, 391-0884

Tuesday-Thursday, 11am-9pm; Friday-Saturday, 11am-10pm; Sunday, 11am-6pm

www.micolombiafood.com

Situated in a charming old stone house one block east of the state cemetery, Mi Colombia was opened by Doña Emilia and two partners. Once they get their alcohol permit, there will be a nice selection of South American beer and wine.

We started our meal with a Picada Colombiana ($8.50), a large basket of a mix of chicharron, yucca fries, meat cubes, plantains, potatoes, and chorizo, which will be perfect when there is cold beer to go with it. Mi Colombia's version of chicharron is unique: fried diced squares of pork skin, some meaty, some not, but all are rich and tasty (and Atkins friendly!). The potatoes are first-simmered tiny little new potatoes, crisped up in the fryer. The yucca fries are crispy on the outside, and fluffy and moist inside. The chorizo is lean and enticing.

Their empanadas ($1.99, meat or chicken) are like the lightest gorditas you have ever tasted, with a masa-influenced pastry surrounding a rich and flavorful filling of meat and potato. These are superb and addictive. The arepas ($1.50, cheese; $3, meat; or $2.75, chicharron) are a little listless: The dough is relatively bland and a little dense – they could use some refinement to match the high quality of the empanadas, and would be much better with a dipping sauce.

The Ajiaco Sopa ($5.50) is a large bowl of hearty potato and garlic broth, with tender chicken with corn cob-ettes, accompanied by lime, a side plate of rice, and an avocado half. It's a meal in itself, and quite good.

We sampled the Chuleta Valluna ($9.50), which is a large pounded-out pork tenderloin section. It's fried Milanesa-style, topped with a confit of garlic and tomato, and accompanied by tostones (twice-sauteed plantains). The tender pork has a seductively rich flavor and a light, golden-brown crust. The Sobrebarriga a la Criolla ($9.50) is shredded flank steak mixed with a savory creole sauce. This meat melts in your mouth, and the maduros (fried sweet plantain) we chose as a side are perfect. Churrasco ($14) is what we thought might be a hanger steak, well-seasoned and marinated, and then grilled, served with a garlicky, tart chimichurri sauce. The red and black bean sides, like typical Caribbean beans, are sparsely spiced. Pop some of those chicharron morsels in them and you'd really have something. Entrees come with a selection from a complete list of sides.

For dessert, we were tempted by the Brevas con Arequipe ($3.50), a plate of allspice-flavored sweetened figs combined with a nice salty, aged, Latin white cheese. It is a simple yet refined combination, and delicious.

Lest you think the menu too meat-centric, we saw an appealing order of fried whole fish that looked exceptional on an adjoining table, and a stuffed chicken breast and arroz con pollo at another. The plates were clean and polished at our table, and at the adjoining tables as well. Lest you fret, Colombian cuisine is by nature not spicy.

Service is very friendly and efficient, and waitstaff are more than willing to explain the menu or make suggestions. Liquados, Latin smoothies made from tropical fruit juices and either water or milk, seemed to be very popular with much of the crowd. There is a less-expensive lunch-specials menu offered during the day, and many lunch diners opt for that route. Mi Colombia has a few minor wrinkles to iron out, but when they do, plan on a wait to get in the door. What we ate was delicious, rustic Colombian fare, authentically prepared.

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