I am enjoying a monstrous Malbec (Los Moras Black Label) and an exquisite montadito in a café’ (D’Verano) just off of the Avenue Poblado in Medellin and I can report that, for a Monday night, it just doesn’t get any better than this.
I find myself once again surrounded by tables full of attractive women in an atmosphere of casual sophistication, and am so struck by the imbalance that I venture to actually make a stab at real journalism and look something up, for once. I am expecting to find a huge surplus of women in this part of the world, but, based on our loveable CIA’s analysts, the ratio is only slightly favorable. I guess in Colombia, “girls just wanna have fun”, like Madonna once famously said, and by local standards, this is an expensive place. Maybe the guys are cheap, I don’t know, but I DO know that I am enjoying myself, and immensely. I started out with an excellent Manzanillo Rioja, then segued into an earthy Carmenere, before settling on this masterpiece of the vintner’s art. This is a man’s drink, the color of pulmonary blood, and bursting with notes of heavy oak and fruit. It goes down smoothly with just a hint of tannins for a nice finish. If you can be in love with a wine, I have found my Juliet.
The montadito is slathered in butter over bacon…what can go wrong here, besides a heart attack? I’m a firm believer that “everything goes better with bacon”, and butter is a close second. There is a nicely seasoned tabouli to help wash the baguette down. This is served hot, and all I can say is it’s 4 slices of heaven…don’t miss it. The price for 3 glasses of 5 star wine and two sides (I also had a mussel-based tapas) was about $40. For Medellin, expensive indeed. For Miami, about a third off.
I also enjoyed the bizarre ritual of the Sushi Train, where you get to pick your meal from a conveyor belt that continuously traverses the eye-level counter in front of your seat. This may sound like a recipe for disaster, but it’s a fun way to eat, and quickly, if you’re in a hurry, and the ahi, unagi, and salmon is fresh and served in big pieces that burst with flavor. By the way, believe it or not, this isn’t the first restaurant I’ve been to like this. Yo’ Sushi in London does the same thing, only with the added twist of a robotic drink server that automatically patrols up and down the aisles from which you can select your beverage. It’s kind of like “Lost in Space” meets “Star Wars”. You can just imagine R2D2 carrying a courage shot of vodka to Luke before his final battle with Darth Vader. Though the Colombian version doesn’t achieve that level of automation, it is actually far better food. Highly recommended. But beware: the plate color denotes the price of the food you choose, so if you’re on a budget, make a note of the color-coded signs on the belt which tell you how much each plate costs. Of course, I didn’t pay any attention, so naturally I chose the most expensive plates. I was dreading my bill until I was pleasantly surprised. The cost for my 15 pieces plus bottled water? Less than $20, and that was on the ground floor of the Diez Hotel, once again in the most exclusive part of town! Such a deal!
For casual dining I’d recommend a couple of local chains. You’ll find them both in malls and on major boulevards. For breakfast or dessert, go to Crepes and Waffles. Get the Nutella and fruit (banana and strawberry) crepe and watch it being made, or order a Belgian Waffle or even ice cream. It’s all good. Trust me. El Corral makes an excellent burger, grilled on an open fire and served up fresh and hot at the counter. I’m still digesting the juicy ¾ pounder I consumed yesterday… Not cheap at about $12, but worth it for the plate with fries and a drink.
Now, I’m going to mention something that’s going to make a lot of people turn up their noses at me. When I‘m overseas, I almost always have at least one meal at McDonald’s. I know, I know…but let’s face it: after weeks on the road in a strange land, sometimes something-anything familiar is what you want to see when you get tired of having to consult a dictionary every time you want to order. The great thing about Mickey D’s is, much of the menu is the same no matter what country you’re in, and the coffee is always good. Plus, every country has its own little differences. In Colombia, the scrambled eggs are mixed with corn and the breakfast plate includes arepas (flat corn cake). And the additional bonus is, it’s always very reasonably priced for the area you find yourself in. It’s like comfort food if you’re a little homesick, a little tired, or a little light in the wallet. There. I said it.
If you’re in the Parque Lleras area, I’d highly recommend the excellent pizza at the Grand Italian, or, if you’ve had too much to drink and find yourself, as I did, at an Irish pub after one in the morning and need to cut your buzz, get an pork empanada at Shamrock’s. Yummy and served up piping hot.
If you’re in the mood for vegetarian, go to Verdeo and order any wrap. You won’t regret it, even if you think vegetarian food is for soy-loving metrosexuals who still worship John Lennon.
If you like to drink beer (and who doesn’t?), the Medellin Beer Factory has lots of locally made brews to choose from. Like most Colombian establishments, you can enjoy them al fresco and soak up the ambience of this charming city. But I can’t recommend the food, which is wickedly overpriced and unremittingly mundane.
OK, tomorrow, if I have time, I’ll finish up my real estate bit and maybe tell you about my night at the casino. Until then, hasta la vista, baby!!!
New additions to my eatery list-
In the entertainment center of La Strada, I ate at Gordito’s, a casual cafe’ on the ground floor next to the Burger King, but with far better food. for $6, I had the meat pocket sandwich with water, and it made for a nice juicy meal if you’re not starving. But they’re closed on Saturdays, and don’t be ina hurry, as service is slow.
Also in La Strada, but on floor three, is Sushi Light, an upscale restaurant that’s very popular with very beautiful women. But unless you’re there to people watch, I’d skip it. the service is slow, the food is expensive, and the food is below average. I had the calamari, and I’m pretty sure it came straight out of a frozen bag of fried rings, then followed it up with unagi, which was good, but the soy sauce mix was way too sweet. With a half bottle of wine my meal was about $40. Unless you’re here to people watch, skip it…
…and instead go to Le Bon, an expat hangout on the corner of Parque’ Lleras, where you can ogle the beautiful people from the open air dining area and snack on delicious and healthy tapas. It’s really a coffee shop with great food and an interesting crowd of people that turns into a hip place to be at night as well. Inexpensive.