Colombia boasts an extensive culinary repertoire. The native heritage (maize, cassava, chili pepper, roots, wild game, fish), the Spanish dishes from colonial days, African ingredients that arrived with the slave trade (coconut and palm oil, tropical fruits) and the foods of immigrants from multiple countries in the 19th and 20th centuries are all part of the mix.
The Taste of Colombia book, which presents the country’s most popular recipes, cites eight distinct culinary cultural regions. You can find all of this variety on the plate in the downtown business area of Bogotá at Leo Cocina y Cava.
In an old building off a stone paved alley, Chef Leonor Espinosa recreates traditional Colombian dishes from different regions, capturing the authentic flavours while adding a modern twist and classy presentation.
We had arepa soup with pork rinds, avocado and Antioquia cheese, carimañolas stuffed with rabbit with tucupi red Indian dwarf pepper sauce, sea snail carpaccio, róbalo (a delicate local white-fleshed fish, aka snook), black goat chop Cartagena style, baked pork with Creole sauce, Kola Román (a local cola-like soft drink) ice-cream with Cartagena pionono (plantain based) and more as we ate our way through a few tasting menus.
My husband almost balked at the raw snail, but sliced ultra thin and served with olive oil and lemon on a bed of leek brittle, it won him over. With that success we should have tried the seared tuna medallions encrusted with Santander ants. Next time.
Source: National Post