This Colombian spot serves up arepas (corn flour flatbread)—with savory toppings like shredded beef ($12) or ham and cheese ($10.50)—in a lively space with custom-made chairs in the colors of the country’s national flag: red, yellow and blue. To drink, there are pura (i.e. “pure”) shakes—blended with water or milk—in flavors such as passion fruit ($6.50) and mango ($5.50). You can also try Colombiana (a champagne soda, $6), Colombian beers ($12), or aguardiente ($8 for a shot; $120 for a bottle), an anise-liquor favored all over Colombia.
We figured the folks behind La Barra must be doing well: They’ve just opened another project, lunch-only buffet restaurant The Latin Quarter at the Science Hub. Plus, Latin food’s big now, and their menu sounded real appealing. Too bad the grub here is such a letdown.
The arepas (corn flour flatbread)—a national speciality—were dry and barely holding together, nothing like the tender slightly leaven corn pancakes we’ve sampled at Latin enclaves around the world. Dense and bitter, even savory toppings like beans with feta ($9) or chicken-avocado ($11) couldn’t save the dish. Another speciality bandeja paisa ($34 for two), a country platter that’s soul food to many Colombians, was equally awful: Rock hard pork belly (which the menu dared call “crispy”), dry chorizo, so-so beans and plantains, and yet more of those subpar arepas. Desserts were no better. The arroz con leche ($12) was a martini glassful of the most undercooked rice pudding we’ve ever encountered (the grains were so firm you could make rice flour with your molars just trying to eat it).
If you must pay this place a visit, stick to the drinks. The anise-flavored liqueur aguardiente ($8/shot, $120/bottle)—which translates to “fire water”—is a tasty after-dinner digestif. Also, their pura shakes ($5.80)—fruit blended with water or milk—in tropical flavors such as mango or passionfruit, are thick and fresh (thankfully) without added sweeteners. We’d come back for those. Otherwise, you’d best give this spot a miss.