SD#8: False rabbits and cow tongues: down home food from way up high

On our last Serial Dining adventure, we went to the address of the deservedly defunct Arnold’s Pizzeria, 6703 Woodside Ave, and found it had been replaced with a Bolivian restaurant named Restaurante Cumbre.  However, there was what appeared to be a private party taking place, so we moved on to the next place on our list.  Yesterday we walked over to Cumbre for another try.  Standing in front of the restaurant in the cold, surrounded by dirty mounds of snow still left from the two recent storms, we saw this:

Stay Warm!

Heck yeah.  This was definitely a day for some hearty soup.

The inside of the restaurant is clean, the decor is simple, and telenovelas and Andean music videos play on a big screen t.v..  This being a lunchtime excursion, it was nice and bright from all the natural light coming in through the big front window.  The server was very friendly, and she had more than enough English to compensate for our nearly nonexistent Spanish.

Cumbre has a simple, two-page menu, with descriptions in both Spanish and English.  Two words:  Comfort food.  They have a long list of soups, a handful of things like salad and plantains, and a whole page of dishes that are best described by my American mind as meat-and-potatoes.  In fact, as it turns out, the potato originally comes from the mountainous western part of South America.  Being 1/8 Irish-American, I kind of thought potatoes come from Ireland, but oddly enough it appears that millions of Irish sustained themselves for generations (because the English allowed them little else) with a tuber that comes from the Andes.  Go figure.  Anyway, apparently there are potatoes in just about all Bolivian main dishes, and we definitely saw that at Cumbre.  Dan Quayle would find this place a challenge.

We wanted to try the main dishes, but we were already fixated on the idea of some soup on a cold day, so we ordered both.  I recommend against doing this.  As it turns out, lunch is the main meal of the day in Bolivia, and the portions at Cumbre are VERY generous.  The soup itself is more than enough to be its own meal.  You live, you learn.

The soups:

I had corn soup, which I believe was called lagua de choclo.  It’s not like corn chowders I’ve had in the past.  In fact, at first I thought the server had brought the wrong thing.  There are no visible kernels of corn.  Instead, the corn is ground and basically thickens and flavors the soup.  There are, however, big chunks of potatoes and one sizable piece of beef.  It was very flavorful but not overly spicy.  In fact, if you want to try new kinds of Latin American cuisine but you’re not into really spicy food, Bolivian seems like a good choice.  For those that like the heat, there’s a little clay pot of hot pepper sauce on the table:

Corn soup

Allan had sopa de mani, which is peanut soup.  There are potatoes in this one too, but they come in the form of french fries– fun!!   I liked this a bit less than the corn soup, and I’m not sure I would enjoy a large bowl of it.  But if you like peanuts in other types of savory dishes, you’ll probably like this.

sopa de mani

Main Dishes

There seems to be a pretty standard format for Bolivian main dishes:  Boiled potatoes and either rice or hominy, some type of meat, and a savory, stew-like sauce, all topped with sliced fresh tomatoes and onions.  Googling after coming back from Cumbre, I’m seeing a lot of dishes that resemble what we ate.  It reminds me of traditional American meals (think Thanksgiving dinner) that consist of a meat, some type of potato, and at least one vegetable dish.  Like I said, comfort food.

I had aji de lengua, which is beef tongue.  This was only my second time eating tongue, the first being Korean barbecue.  I used to avoid it because the idea of eating a cow’s tongue grossed me out.  My advice to you:  if you’re the same way, get over it.  You’re missing out.

Allan had falso conejo, which means false rabbit.  It’s actually beef, pounded and breaded before cooking.  There actually aren’t too many rabbits in the Andes, but they do have lots of guinea pigs, which are a favorite food and commonly nicknamed the rabbits of the Andes.  So it’s weird that this dish isn’t called false guinea pig.  But I digress.  Here are the dishes:

Aji de lengua

Falso conejo

Both dishes reminded me of a hearty stew that wasn’t quite fully assembled.

Here’s a link to a review from the Eating in Translsation blog, which has much better photos than mine (although the same fascination with the little clay pots that the hot sauce comes in).  I learned from reading this post that those packed weekend parties are actually routine performances of Andean music (which explains the sound equipment in the restaurant, and also the fact that they run music videos for traditional and modern Andean music on their big-screen TV).  Maybe we’ll head back some time and be a little less timid.

The whole meal cost about $20 including the tip.  The final verdict:  If you’re looking for a variation on stick-to-your-ribs, meat-and-potatoes comfort food, this is a great place to go.  Since this place is so close to our apartment, Allan is already talking about running over there for lunch on the days when he works from home.  But if you go, do a soup OR a main dish, not both at the same time.

Cumbre on Urbanspoon

One Response to “SD#8: False rabbits and cow tongues: down home food from way up high”

  1. SD#9: Braulio’s Y Familia: You must listen. They’ve got the conch. « The Fat Chick Diaries Says:

    […] After last time, when we ate lunch at Cumbre and I thought having some soup with my meal was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, I decided it would be wise to start researching restaurants a bit better before we go.  Fortunately, the city is full of foodies, and virtually every restaurant in the five boroughs has been reviewed online at least once or twice, usually by people infinitely more knowledgeable than I.  Between the bloggers and the many people who comment on their posts, there’s a lot of info to be had. […]

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