Country 083 – Nicaragua (La Bella Managua)

La Bella ManaguaLocation: 872 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.labellamanagua.com/

It’s always a good sign when you go to a restaurant and hear almost no English from the proprietor or the surrounding tables.  There are so many reasons why living in a city as multicultural as Toronto is a great thing, but food is certainly at the top of that list.  I honestly don’t think there are too many other cities in the world where I could do a blog like this.

So I was fairly confident that I was in good hands at La Bella Managua.  Eating the food confirmed it.

La Bella Managua

I tried a couple of things.  First up was the Pollo a la Parrilla.  This featured a perfectly grilled piece of chicken, rice and beans (gallo pinto, which is Nicaragua’s national dish), salad, and fried plantains.

Everything was great.  The chicken was nicely grilled and seasoned, with some welcome crispiness on its exterior and a perfectly cooked interior.  White meat is very easy to overcook, turning it dry and unappealing, so kudos to them for preparing this so well.  And the sweetness of the fried plantains balanced nicely with the savoury chicken.

La Bella Managua

The gallo pinto was simple enough, but very satisfying, as was the salad (which consisted mostly of avocado, tomato, peppers, and red onion).  I’m normally not a big fan of raw onions in salad, but these were mild enough to be acceptable.

The other dish I tried was the Nacatamal, which is described as “typical Nicaraguan tamales stuffed with seasoned pork loin & vegetables.”

La Bella Managua

This might be the least photogenic thing I’ve ever eaten.  I mean, it looks horrifying.  But it’s the ultimate “don’t judge a book by its cover” dish, because it was absolutely delicious.

Unlike the tamales I recently had at Tacos El Asador, these were absolutely crammed with flavour, and the tender pork loin gave it a satisfying meatiness.  In case it wasn’t obvious enough from the chicken, this is a top-shelf restaurant doing top-shelf stuff.

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Country 002 — Colombia (Las Delicias)

delicias
Location: 59 Dundas Street West, Mississauga
Website: None

Hidden away in a sketchy little plaza in Mississauga, Las Delicias is pretty much the very definition of a hole-in-the-wall restaurant.

The friendly proprietor quickly sussed out that it was my first time in the restaurant — and my first time eating Colombian food, period.  She recommended the Bandeja Paisa, a decadent smorgasbord that pretty much dares you to finish it (I did).

Clockwise on the picture above, starting at 12:00 – a fried egg, Colombian sausage, fried plantain, crispy pork belly, corn biscuit, and steak, all served atop white rice and beans, with an addictively spicy bowl of hot sauce served on the side.

Nothing here was particularly great — in fact, I suspect that almost all of it is probably better served elsewhere.  The pork belly was tough, and bordering on leathery.  The corn biscuit was almost rock hard. The steak was overcooked and chewy.  The plantain was soggy.

And yet I enjoyed it more than you’d think.  Everything taken together, and topped with that great hot sauce, added up to something surprisingly satisfying.

The sausage — which had an odd, yellow colour on the inside and a unique texture — was a highlight.  And it’s hard to mess up a fried egg.  The beans, too, were quite good — kind of like a less dense refried beans.

I was disappointed at first, but the dish slowly won me over.  It was a huge amount of food and I cleaned the plate.  Of course, that probably speaks to my gluttony just as much as it does to the quality of the food, but still.  I enjoyed it.

Las Delicias Las Delicias