Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Las Delicias Panaderia Colombiana

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.


Chris said...

Finally wanted to stop and comment. As a massive fan of latin cuisine, with virtually no access to it here in Canada, I'm always looking forward to your posts. I try and make my way south when I can, having just gotten back from both Honduras and Nicaragua, to indulge in delicious food; so it is with anticipation and a side of jealous that I wait for your next posts.

Keep up the great work.

Bruce said...

Thanks Chris. Now I'm the one who's jealous - I've only been to Mexico. But we do have a great selection of restaurants representing almost every Central American and most South American restaurants.

Anonymous said...

just want to know if you are going to sell lechona any time soon. because is deliciuos

Bruce said...

Anonymous you'll have to call them and ask. The number is 713-270-1056. And let me know what you find out because I want some too.

Anonymous said...

Lechona is availabel every second Saturday. I ate 2 plates last weekend, my kids and I just love the Lechona. They will have Lechona again Saturday the 16th.
You should try also the "Sobrebarriga al Horno" Beef flank prepared on the oven, it is delicious!!!
Gerardo, the Colombian

Bruce said...

Thank you Gerardo. I'll be over there soon to finally get some. Haven't ever tried the sobriebarriga - that sounds good, too.

Any other Colombian places in town I should hit?

John Nechman said...

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for the great article on Las Delicias and all your other great pieces. I wrote an article on Houston's Colombian restaurants that appeared in the latest My Table issue, and unbelievably, I left off Las Delicias. Here's a link to the article:

Bruce said...

Thanks for the link, John. That's a great article and I hadn't seen it yet. Glad you liked the chorizo at Pandarepa.

You missed the two Colombian hot dog carts listed on the International truck thread! I haven't tried any Colombian dogs except the two at El Paisa.

John Nechman said...

Believe me, Bruce--every Colombian I know (many) lets me know of some place I missed! Still, several well-placed Houstonian Colombians have told me they learned of several places on the list that they never knew existed. A cool place called City Eats in Kingwood, of all places, does a really good Colombian hot dog (as well as a great version of a New Jersey-style Italian Hot Dog and many other tempting offerings): http://www.cityeatstexas.com/

Bruce said...

It is amazing what you can find in this city, so much of it under the radar when it comes to small ethnic places. I mostly try to track the SW side of town and it's a big city.

I looked back at my review and saw I had the chorriperros at El Paisa. not the hot dog. Unfortunately they charcoalized the chorizo and I did not care for the crushed chips and pineapple. It was very similar to the Venezuelan dog I had at Sabor Venozolano but the one I still want to try is the Guatemalan Shuco.

I've been to City Eats to try the Sabretts, which I'd never had before, but didn't notice the Colombian dog!

BTW, right next to the original Pollo Rico on Fondren is Rico Cafe (coffee) by the same people. Not sure if it's open yet.

What is very impressive about all the Colombian places I've been to is the consistently tasty food, unlike some ethnic varieties when you occasionally encounter something very poorly done, there is a consistency of quality and tastiness.