Obscurity is a relative thing. Colombian cuisine may be a virtual unknown to Calgarians but not so to the almost 45 million people who call the South American country of Colombia home.

This city’s Colombian community may comprise a very small chip off the ol’ block but it does have its own festival: Colombian Day 2011 which takes place on August 6 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Bowness Park.

Just as the community works hard to make its culture known to Calgarians Teresa Gallo of Colombian Flavor has brought the traditional dishes of her equatorial native country to the Great White North. Her restaurant has been in its southeast location for one year and previously operated at the Heritage Flea Market.

Some items on the restaurant’s menu will be familiar to anyone who has eaten Latin food — hola! However most are uniquely Colombian.

Take for example arepas con queso ($2) a simple and lovely appetizer. Round white and the size of a large burger patty this corn-and-cheese cake is crisped on the outside steamy and soft inside.

Guacamole ($4.50) served with twice-fried plantain is an addictive appetizer. Sure the avocado dip is bright creamy and wholesome but the accompanying mini-banana-like plantains which have been crushed flat like thick rustic chips are show stealers.

Accompanying these starters mango guanabana juice ($4) also known as soursop is made from a plump spiny green-skinned fruit with white flesh. The drink is fresh and fruity with a satisfying pineapple-like sharpness and mango sweetness and colour.

A yellow chicken-and-potato soup made with green herbs and a signature chunk of corn on the cob ajiaco ($12) is one of Colombia’s best-known dishes. Traditionally served with small sides of rice avocado corn chopped capers and sour cream Colombian Flavor limits this list to just rice and half an avocado but the combination makes a complete meal.

Thick with potato this starchy soup is also meaty with plenty of bite-sized chunks of chicken. Additional carbs aren’t a necessary accompaniment but the rice is expertly cooked buttery and fragrant.

And then there’s the bandeja paisa ($15) one of Colombia’s most typical dishes. It’s a very hearty entree. Served in a deep metal dish emblazoned with the restaurant’s logo it’s a who’s who of South American staples. Excellently thick saucy red beans and more of that nice rice form the base of this dish’s considerable carbo load. Also included are a small corn cake that’s on the dry side and half a large fried plantain. The plantain has a slight golden-orange colouring and is sweeter than the twice-fried appetizer variety. It is however every bit as addictive.

The meats are likewise many. There’s a small steak and though not a tender cut it’s perfectly grilled on the outside red and juicy within. The plump chorizo sausage though plain is certainly filling. A chunky length of chicharrón or pork cracklings is not for those on a cholesterol-reduced diet but this deep-fried pigskin with its layers of fat and fatty meat is a guilty pleasure.

But that’s not all. Riding the rice is a sunny-side-up egg while next to this pairing sits half an avocado the plate’s lone — and welcome — piece of greenery.

At the end of it all I’m so very full I can’t think straight so I order two desserts. The leche asada ($4) or fried flan is a sweet vanilla pudding cube that’s surprisingly light. The torta des tres leche ($4) or triple milk cake tastes roughly the same but is comprised of a cake and a whipped cream layer. The moist cake wicks up its shallow dish of sweet milk.

Hearty meaty and generously loaded with carbs these dishes represent a small portion of a menu that’s well hearty meaty and generously loaded with carbs. A little exotic and certainly unique to the local food scene the restaurant offers skilfully prepared acquired tastes as well as instant favourites.

While Colombia may be thousands of kilometres away Colombian Flavor is located within easy reach at the corner of Glenmore Trail and Ogden Road. I recommend the trip. Forty five million Colombians — and yours truly — can’t be wrong.

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