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I ordered churrasco, described as "shread steak neither sliced nor shredded here better known in South America as Brazilian-style barbecue (where restaurants called churrascaria de rodízio send waiters dashing from table to table with skewers of grilled meats, slicing off portions for customers). Rincon Colombiano's version is a thin slice of perfectly grilled beef served sizzling on a metal platter, accompanied by a little mound of white rice; two golden, fried plantains; and a tiny "salad" of shredded lettuce, two cucumber slices, a few bits of white onion and tomato slices.
The best thing about the dish was the dollop of chimichurri that came with it, a delectable sauce of olive oil, herbs, garlic and lemon, which I slathered all over the meat. It didn't pack the punch of the peppery aji pique, the spicy, vinegary sauce offered in plastic jam jars on every table in the joint. A splash of chimichurri takes a fried plantain to a whole new dimension.
Carol Ann went for the chicken breats, er, breasts, of course, especially after Aldemar told her that the dish, pechuga a la criolla, was one of the house specialties. It's a truly excellent dish, the chicken plump and fork-tender and served afloat a pud-dle of tomato-based criolla sauce. Bob didn't see eggs on the description of the bisteca a caballo, but the so-called beef "filet" (that might be an overstatement; it looked like flank steak) was topped with two fried huevos and drenched in a slightly oily tomato sauce. He liked the eggs better than the beef.
On my next visit to the restaurant, I brought along my friend Patrick and my new pals, Colombian-born Mauricio and Ivonne Garcia, and their teenage daughter, Andrea. The Garcias, who live in Lenexa, are thrilled that Rincon Colombiano has opened; now they can indulge in real home-style fare. Ivonne says the spotless restaurant is in both style and cuisine more rustic than you'd find in Bogota, but where else in town is she going to find a bowl of mondongo? I started to say that I had seen a dirty movie with a similar title, but Patrick kicked me under the table.
"Not everyone likes it," Ivonne said, offering me a spoonful of the thick, pungently aromatic tripe soup. I tasted it and thought the flavor was lovely but the fragrance wasn't. A more luscious sopa was the cazuela de mariscos that Mauricio ordered (it's not on the menu, he says, but Lambrana will make it if you ask), a creamy Colombian variation on cioppino that's loaded with shrimp, squid, mussels and chopped fish.
We started the meal with crunchy empañadas filled with beef and potatoes and a delicious discovery for me, crunchy bits of fried pork skins called chicharrones that are addictively good, particularly drenched with pique sauce. Andrea liked this treat so much, she ordered bandeja paisa, a dish that combines all kinds of Colombian delicacies: beef, sausage, pork skins, fried plantains and a tidy pillar of rice topped with a fried egg.
Eggs, Ivonne explained, are a popular culinary accessory in Colombia, along with the crunchy tostones, fried plantains that are smashed, then fried again.
I've never seen a flatter piece of red snapper (that's what the menu said it was, anyway) than the cardboard-thin filet of pargo a la plancha that Patrick ordered. "It doesn't taste like fish, really," he said. "It needs lime juice," Ivonne said, motioning for Aldemar to bring over some slices to squeeze over the fish. It helped, sort of. Dry, but citrusy.