7643 Dashwood @ Fondren
ANOTHER update below!
Mas ricos tamale. Looks messy, tastes great (not less filling). Update on the Las Delicias tamale below.
This place caught my eye as I was pulling away from a fried chicken emporium on the corner. I drove into the parking lot and made a note of the address and some of the specialties listed on the sign: Lechona, Tamales, Buneulos, Natilla, Empanadas, Pavo Relleno, Pollo Relleno and so on.
Some of these were easy to figure out and when I looked the others up I knew I had to give this place a try. I've never seen some of these offerings on the menus of the other Colombian restaurants I've visited.
Lechona is a Colombian version of roasted, stuffed pig, with yellow peas, green onion, yellow rice and spices, traditionally cooked in a brick oven. Natilla is a custard like pudding made with corn starch instead of eggs.
On my first visit I was sorry to learn that the lechona is available only sporadically; they do expect to do it for Christmas so I'm making plans to visit on the 24th of this month. I do understand it will be available by the platillo or as a whole platter. Yum-yum.
The place has a small pastry display case but mostly it's a lunch counter type set up (and more attractive inside than what you might expect from that trashy center); a counter with stools lines the wall around two sides of the space and there are stools at a main counter, too, but no tables.
I dealt with three different servers; one, the manager I presume, spoke good English apparently, but she was on the phone the whole time I was there. With my limited Spanish and the even more limited English of the others, I managed to find out a lot more about the offerings while watching the plate lunch specials of the day, listed on a blackboard, come out of the kitchen. The place was very busy at 2 in the afternoon. One of the offerings was the traditional dish Bandeja Paisa but the most popular offering of the day was a pork dish, I think, cubed pork in a green sauce; I saw a chuleta plate on the blackboard but can't remember the whole name; there is no other printed menu.
I picked up two empanadas and two pieces of Pandebono, plus a half dozen Colombian tamales. The empanadas, made with arepa dough, were the best Colombian empanadas I've had, fresh and hot out of the fryer. The filling of shredded beef and mashed potatoes was very good, although the first one I bit into had so little actual beef in it it reminded me of deviled ham. The accompanying green sauce, salsa or chimichurri?, was hotter than anything I've ever had at a Colombian restaurant, a surprise since Colombian cuisine is not spicy. Other Colombian empanadas I've had have used ground beef.
Pandebono is a much more interesting Colombian bread than arepas. Made with corn flour, cassava starch, cheese and eggs, the rolls have a hole on the bottom and are hollowed out; they somewhat resemble a cheese flavored bagel, although not as chewy. It is traditionally consumed hot out of the oven with hot chocolate but these were out of the display case and probably several hours old. Nevertheless they were good. I haven't gotten around to heating up the tamales yet (they were refrigerated and require veinte minutos en agua caliente to be ready to eat).
I'm looking forward not only to the tamales but a return to Las Delicias to try other items. I'm particularly intrigued by the Pavo Relleno but I'll be happy to have more of the empanadas and Pandebono.
Despite the language difficulties the servers were all friendly.
Update on the tamale: Okay, so I misunderstood; I bought one tamale, not a half dozen! I fixed it for breakfast this morning. Unwrapping it from the foil packet and banana leaf revealed a beautiful sight, though a bit messy. A common sign in the window of Latin restaurants will describe mas ricos tamales or mas ricos pupusas or mas ricos caldos - this was mas, mas ricos - very, very rich. Besides a drumstick and part of a rib (both bone-in), I detected peas, carrots, onions, and, I think, red and green peppers in the tamale and was on a possibly lard-induced high after just half of it. I have to try one of these in the restaurant. I'm wondering if any salsa is served with it? Not that it needed any - it was awesome as is. I have a better idea now of what the nacatamale of Nicaragua must be like and this just may be the best tamale I've had anywhere.
I've been reading up on Colombian tamales and discovering there are many interesting variations. I'll be looking for them on menus from now on. Here's a fascinating article on a particular type of Colombian tamale (I don't think mine had any egg). Apparently the green sauce is called pique.
NOTE: I believe the tamale I had here is called a tolimenses.
Another update: I went in on the 24th but was unable to get any Lechona; the waitress indicated I needed to call ahead. I wasn't surprised. After reading up on this more it's a very special dish. I went ahead an got an order of Bandeja Paisa to go (the place was packed at 11:15am with people waiting for a stool).
This came with a very good section of skirt steak, lots of rice, a very savory chorizo with lots of green onion in it I think. The portion of plantano maduro was very small, the chicharron was mostly fat and the beans could have been served in a Cajun restaurant over rice and nobody would have noticed. It was a pretty good version of this dish.
I also got a potato ball - a rice and ground beef mixture rolled in cooked potatoes and deep fried. In Puerto Rico this is called Papas Rellenas but the girl, who spoke good English, just called it a potato stuffed with either beef or chicken here so I'm not sure what the Colombian term would be. It was from under a heat lamp so not really hot nor crispy but still pretty good.
The lunch menu hadn't changed that I could tell so I guess it's the same dishes each day. The pork dish on the menu was Chuleta Empanizada; from the explanations online that does not sound like the dish I saw on the first visit so maybe what I saw was not pork after all.
They did not have any tamales. I was planning on buying a couple and trying freezing one.
This is a neat little place and with so many dishes that I have not seen on other Colombian restaurant menus I'm tempted to believe it's the most authentic of the ones I've been to.