La Gourmandine will take over the former Penn Avenue Fish spot on Forbes Avenue
It’s long been an article of faith that “we eat with the eyes.” In an era of cooking shows and magazines with dishes that are composed like art projects — Jackson Pollock dots and finger-painted streaks of emulsions and aiolis, edible flowers and foams (ugh) — the visual component of food, although often stunning, may at times be overemphasized.
To that end, the food at The Colombian Spot — newly opened on the South Side — is nothing to look at. An empanada is a drab gold that looks like a hot pocket. The ropa vieja arepas — shredded beef with a light tomato sauce — looks like a sloppy Joe.
That’s how they look. But the taste is like a Technicolor detonation of flavors — Dorothy landing in taste buds Oz.
The flavor pops beneath the crunchy corn exterior of the empanada ($1.95). The savory shredded beef of the arepas is stuffed between the corn patties with fried sweet plantains and mozzarella, a most excellent mixture ($10.50).
The fried plantains, roast pork and black beans of the pernil con tostones makes for a fairly monochromatic dish that belies the fantastic medley of spices and seasonings ($6.99).
A bowl of Ajiaco, a chicken and potato broth soup with corn, was warming comfort.
An exile of the Pittsburgh Public Market, owner Karen Perdomo, a native of the coffee region of Colombia, opened The Colombian Spot on March 1, one year and one day after the Public Market’s closure. Nearly the entire menu — save one or two items — is gluten free.
The restaurant is bright and colorful, with artwork, murals and trinkets from Ms. Perdomo’s homeland. It takes over a space that had recently been a revolving door of short-term failed businesses since the closing of the longtime neighborhood favorite City Grill earlier this decade.
Ms. Perdomo is ambitiously planning for the BYOB restaurant’s future and said that breakfast service, a bakery, salsa dancing and live music are all in the works, in what is believed to be the city’s first full-service restaurant dedicated solely to the cuisines of Colombia.
And while the author doesn’t claim to have any particular insight into the history or preparation of Colombian food or the country itself (I can find it on the map, my famous high school classmate Joe Manganiello married Sophia Vergara, and I watched “Narcos” — that’s about it) the food at The Colombian Spot is well prepared and tasty — even if first glances suggest otherwise.
The Colombian Spot: 2019 E. Carson St., South Side; 412-381-9000; https://www.thecolombianspot-pgh.com.
Dan Gigler: email@example.com; Twitter @gigs412.