Dine-In Brooklyn: The Bogota Experience

Brooklynites, get excited—our restaurant week (also known as Dine-In Brooklyn) is here! Until March 29, you can eat on the (relatively) cheap at some of your favorite restaurants, for $20.12 (lunch)  or $25 (dinner) per person.

Brooklyn is becoming known as one of the hottest spots for dining–from mom and pop traditional shops to upscale, modern restaurants spilling over from Manhattan’s uptown streets. In full disclosure, I spend most of my life eating out in Brooklyn. I love the little streets, the friendly people and the “suburban” feel you only get in the outer boroughs, especially in my native Park Slope.

For this week’s Dine-In Brooklyn, my sister and I hit up our favorite Park Slope restaurant, Bogota Latin Bistro, now offering (clearly labeled) gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options. Ah, Bogota, how much do I love you? Let me count the ways…

Plantain chips with Bogota’s own aji sauce

Bogota opened in 2005, the lovechild of two passionate rising entrepreneurs, George Constantinou and Farid Ali, who had some experience in the restaurant business and none in the business of business. The two men came together in 2001 with the idea of opening a Pan-Latin restaurant and mojito bar, honoring the food of their Latin American heritage, with a specific focus on Colombian cuisine. They enrolled in business classes and, after a competition in Citigroup’s Power Up! won them $20,000, they were all set to open the restaurant of my dreams.

I mean, their dreams. Right.

Shrimp Ceviche

You may wonder what separates Colombian food from the rest of the Latin American food market. This can be hard to define, if only because of its melting pot culture.  Not as spicy as Mexican food and not as rich and sweet as Cuban cuisine, Colombian dishes are a unique flavor of their own, influenced by their European settlers, indigenous groups and Caribbean neighbors. When you sit down to eat at a restaurant like Bogota, you can be overwhelmed by a multitude of differing aromas, tastes and textures–from a spicy ceviche, to a soft cornbread called an arepa to a creamy flan de coco, you can have it all. It is truly a cuisine that in its lack of a clear taste definition, creates one that is all its own.

Garlic Rotisserie Chicken with rice, beans and sweet plantains (maduros)

Last night, I was more than thrilled to indulge in a feast at Bogota. Their staff is always friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating. Like the owners, they are passionate and believe in their food, which makes the entire dining experience more enjoyable.

Arepa with fresh avocado

For my meal, I ordered the shrimp ceviche (which came with six HUGE pieces of fish), the garlic rotisserie chicken and the flan de coco, all gluten free except for the flan. (Yes, I cheated. Sometimes I can be extremely weak when presented with my coconut and a creamy custard.) My sister chose the arepa with avocado, the salmon (which arrived complete with salad) and the tres leches cake. Her first choice for dessert, the banana caramel bread pudding (which my dad enjoyed nights earlier), was too popular and already gone by the time we arrived.

Flan de Coco (Coconut Custard)

As we sat eating, we became completely silent, except for the occasional “mmm” and “oh my god this is heaven.” We intended to devour the entire three-course menu, but when our stomachs lacked the ability to compete with our giant plates of food, we were ‘forced’ to bring home our leftovers. Even now, as I sit here at my table, finishing off my Garlic Rotisserie Chicken, I have been reduced to picking up the bone and fishing out all the hidden pieces of meat left to nibble. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It tastes too good, and I just never want it to end.

Bogota Latin Bistro is located in Park Slope, Brooklyn on 5th Ave on St John’s. You can reserve a table online (highly suggested, especially for restaurant week) here. For the full version of how this restaurant came to be, visit this site.

Bogotá Latin Bistro on Urbanspoon

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