Saturday, March 6, 2010

Los Andes – Minneapolis, MN

The last time TheDoctor and I went to lunch at Popeyes Chicken, I mentioned I wanted to try this Ecuadorian and Colombian restaurant across the street from Popeyes. TheDoctor said to include him when I went and we’d check it out. I had no idea what to expect since I was unfamiliar with the cuisine from those countries. Would it simply be Mexican food with some minor changes or would it be completely different? No idea. I sent TheDoctor a text message with the address and name of the place and reminded him it was directly across from Popeyes. What’s really hilarious is I sent him the wrong address and the wrong name of the restaurant and we still both managed to show up at the correct place and sent each other messages at the same time laughing that I totally got the name wrong. I’m an idiot.

We perused the menu and I found a lot of familiar looking things on it. Some of the items had pictures associated with the dishes, which is super helpful at an ethnic restaurant people are unfamiliar with. The menu was in English and Spanish, which is also helpful. We found an appetizer that sounded delicious so we ordered that while deciding on food. The Humitas con Queso were traditional corn cakes with cheese on them – how could that be bad? The answer is… It couldn’t.

TheDoctor and I both wanted the same thing on the menu, but caved and ordered something seafood-y since he’ll eat that and I tend to steer clear of those things. Then we could share. I decided on the Picada “Los Andes” – basically a plate full of meat – and I got a pineapple Jarritos, as well. TheDoctor got Arroz Marinero – seafood with yellow rice. Neither of us were sure what would come out, but we had high hopes.

I was absolutely intrigued by an item on the menu. There was something called Cuy and also a photo of it. I thought, “wow, that looks vaguely animal-shaped.” Oddly enough, it IS animal-shaped, since it’s a guinea pig cooked with corn and yellow potatoes. Like a WHOLE guinea pig. You need two hours to order it (so they can “prepare it” – aka go to the pet store down the street), otherwise, it might hhave been tempting. The only issue (well, not the ONLY issue) is that I was unsure how to eat one. I don’t even know what’s inside of one. I heard Anthony Bourdain eats Cuy on his trip to Ecuador, but I haven’t seen the episode, so I don’t have any idea what guinea pig etiquette is yet. I’m not sure if I could do it or not, but I’ll see the episode and then decide. Maybe next time.

The food arrived pretty quickly with the appetizer first. The corn cakes were really tasty – not a lot of variety on the flavor (as far as complexity), but the cheese was enough flavor to give it some depth. It may not have been the most amazing thing in the world, but it was still good enough, I’d probably order it again (a couple of times). There was enough for TheDoctor and I to each get a corn cake with plenty of cheese, so we were both happy with the amount before the entrees came out.

First, the waiter brought out this orange creamy sauce kind of thing to our table. We were unsure of what it was so TheDoctor put a small dab on his finger and popped it in his mouth. He smiled at first and then started coughing. Which of course made ME want to try it. The same thing happened to me. Really good flavor and then straight fire. Amazingly spicy sauce but with really good flavor. We would be putting this on anything they brought o our table at this point, and we didn’t even know what it was for. It was awesome though.

TheDoctor’s food was kind of a disappointment, visually. It was basically shrimp-fried rice from a Chinese restaurant. I don’t mean that in a bad way, since it was actually pretty good. But it was distinctly non-south-american. Very unique menu item. It had peas and cubed carrots in it, so it really looked like the frozen vegetables you get at the grocery store, sadly. But it did have red and green peppers in it as well, so it had some other flavors helping it all out. I don’t think TheDoctor was overly impressed with his, but I did actually like his (enough that I took his left-overs home with me and ate them the next day – thanks, Doctor). It had only the faintest of fishy flavors in it and the shrimp was mostly perfect (though there were a few tails still left one, so you had to be a bit cautious).

My food was, as I said earlier, a big plate of meat. It had grilled beef, pork loin, some sort of sausage, and cracklin (which I’m pretty sure is like fatty pork bellies….mmmmmm…fatty pork bellies.). It also had fried green plantains (or tostones) and a grilled sweet plantain. It was basically the Andean version of Fogo de Chao. The grilled beef was awesome. The pork loin was equally awesome (probably the best parts). The sausage was really good, but if you don’t like gristle-y bits in your sausage, you probably won’t like it – thankfully I do. And the cracklin was pretty good as well. Some parts were fried hard and others were a bit soggy (it’s kind of like how people cook bacon). It was good, but there were some pieces that were entirely fat (only a few, though, so don’t think I’m complaining). And yes, everything got dipped in the orange creamy fire sauce I had globbed on my plate. The tostones were really good as well. I’ve had them before at other places and I like them better than American potato chips, so you should probably make sure you get to try these if given the chance. The grilled plantain was just alright. It was a big soggy and had some tewxture issues, but it was fine for a few bites. It just appeared to have some sort of spinal column running down it that was indestructible – weird.

Overall, I had a pretty good meal here. It didn’t blow me (or TheDoctor) away, but it was a good meal and I had very few complaints at all about it. The wait staff was very friendly and helpful and there was a decent crowd there eating, so the place appears to be doing a pretty healthy business. I would eat Colombian food again without a doubt. I know there are a couple of other places like this in the Twin City area, so I might have to try those as well. It’s worth checking out if you’re in the area and don’t own stock in Popeyes, like *I* do. Hahahahaha.

Top 5 things about Los Andes
1. Picada “Los Andes”
2. Humitas
3. Amazingly hot orange creamy sauce
4. Menu has awesome descriptions and photos!
5. Really nice wait staff

Bottom 5 things
1. Some of the cracklin was inedible
2. Frozen veggies in TheDoctor’s food
3. No room for amazing sounding Andean desserts
4. Parking isn’t the greatest on Lake Street
5. I’m curious/horrified by eating a guinea pig

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