Monday, August 25, 2008

CLOSED--A pearl is truly rare thing:Colombian seafood at a Swap Meet?

La Fiesta Outlet Mall on Sherman Way in No. Hollywood

La Perla glows bright in the food court in La Fiesta

Arroz de mariscos

Empanada de camaron con aji

The glorious patacon, que chevere!

Colombia. I have many fond memories.I'm always looking for a good spot to indulge in some comida Colombiana, have an aguardiente, and stay abreast of the important news stories in Colombia by reading La Prensa. Waiting to order my lunch at La Perla del Pacifico, the new Colombian seafood destination at the La Fiesta Outlet Mall, I decided to read about the controversy between Venezuela and Colombia. No, I'm not talking about Uribe's cross-border invasion, but of course, the Miss Universe pageant. La Prensa stated that Miss Colombia was racking up the points throughout the pageant, and was a crowd favorite too, when Miss Venezuela stole the show. I thought Taliana Vargas was robbed, and this important news feature in La Prensa just validates my position!

Ok, the find. The La Fiesta Outlet Mall is a lifesavor, and alongside the King Seafood Market, make for a serious day of shopping. This bastion of inexpensive low brow shopping for the Latino community has all the stuff you can get downtown, minus the pirate DVD's, hamsters, and bellydancer outfits. But hey, you can get a kimchi refrigerator, too! Plus, you get to mix and mingle with cholos, girls named Sad Girl, and the unaccomodating merchants. At these prices, who can afford congeniality?

But, amidst this bargain shoppers dream lies a true gem, La Perla Del Pacifico, the only Colombian seafood restaurant in Los Angeles. Even more rare is the focus on the cuisine of the Pacific Coast of Colombia, as opposed to the more well known Caribbean Coastal dishes of Barranquilla and Cartagena. The Pacific Coast has European, African, Arabic, and Japanese influences to name a few, but the African influence is predominate, especially in the mostly Afro-Colombian population in the department of Nariño.

I popped in this past Sunday for a sample of this special restaurant, I really love Colombian food after having visited there four times, but was becoming weary of the city city cuisine from Bogota and the surrounding areas, which is all we have here. The Colombian restaurants around Los Angeles seem to share the same menu, save for an item here and there.

I had the arroz de mariscos, a dish that lives up to its name with ample amounts of mussels, clams, and baby octopus, almost as substantial as a paella. A cool pickled salad and a perfectly fried patacon, one the best I've ever had. I started with a shrimp empanada, fried corn flour dough with ample crunch. It startled me at first because it was a little harder than the typical cigar shaped empanadas from Colombia you find around town, but these are Pacific Coast style.

My Colombiana, the creme soda like national soft drink was a sweet juxtaposition to the zestful seafood.I would have preferred Club Colombia beer, but that's how it goes with the stringent California liquor laws.

The menu is replete with colorful and unique Pacifico entrees: encocao of either shrimp,black clams, angel fish, or crab legs (all cooked in coconut milk); grilled fish, tapao de pescado(fish soup with plantains), sancocho de pescado (fish stew), ceviche (Atlantic or Pacific coast styles), a paella-like rice with seafood, and rice with shrimp (arroz de mariscos and arroz con camarones)--oh, and they have a nice cazuela de mariscos (seafood casserole), too. There are also Colombian hot dogs and hamburgers for those so inclined.

Aphrodisiac beverages such as the arrechon (strong fermented corn drink), jugo de borojo (Colombian fruit), and the champu (fermented corn drink). Jugos with water or milk and agua de panela, the brown sugar drink. There's lots to explore here on this menu.

The husband and wife team of Justo Gomez and Ana Milena run La Perla Del Pacifico, her behind the stove, and him at the counter. They said this is a new cuisine here and are anxious to see how people will respond, as even most Colombians are not used to this food. LA Colombianos are eating carnes! After many disappointments in Los Angeles with Latino seafood restaurant experiences, I can say with pleasure that La Perla is not amazing because it's a one of a kind, but because they make traditional Pacifico cuisine with the quality, execution, and care reserved for first-rate restauranteurs. Que chevere, que bacano, La Perla!

La Perla Del Pacifico
12727 Sherman Way Ste. #B-8
North Hollywood, CA 91605
0r 323-508-6173 cell
In the La Fiesta Outlet Mall
closed on Tuesdays

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