Restaurant >Carnal desires
An interesting statistic: In the United States, the incidence of heart disease is almost four times higher than it is in Colombia. I mention this fact because when I opened the menu of Colombian dishes at Oh! Que Bueno, I swear I could hear my mother yelling, "If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll get sick!"
Housed in a small, nondescript fast-food makeover off fast-traveled South Semoran Boulevard, the family spot was formerly the Sunrise Restaurant, a schizophrenic endeavor that served omelets for breakfast, Chinese food for lunch and Vietnamese at dinner. No such confusion at O!QB ... the bill of fare is so constant it doesn't vary from morning to 10 p.m. close.
There's not a veggie among the listings of tipicos (traditional dishes), platos (combination plates) and bocaditos (appetizers; literally "little mouths"), unless you count corn, rice and red beans. Don't look for anything green. How do the fit and sound people of Colombia go through the day without their hearts attacking them? Maybe Mom was wrong and taste does count for something.
Take, as an example, the "bandeja campesina" ($9.95), a "farmers meal" that's half dinner, half breakfast. White rice, savory red beans, a thick link sausage and a large slice of fried pork skin (more like thick bacon than the crunchy snacks) join a typical morning repast of steak, fried eggs and corn cake. There's enough food to last most of the day, and each bit tasted as authentic as the presentation. And I tell a slight lie -- there was green in the form of a creamy slice of avocado.
The "mariscos" menu offers fried red snapper (frozen rather than fresh), mojarra, a small tropical fish, and various shrimp dishes. I tried camarones al ajillo ($10.95) and was rewarded with several plump shrimp swimming in a garlic and butter sauce liberally spiced with cilantro and excellent when spooned over the rice. Green plantain fritters -- CD-sized disks of fried cooking bananas -- were surprisingly moist and tasted great dipped in the garlic.
The bites of sweet plantains ($2) were fried almost to caramel without turning to mush, and a sugary delight. I have yet to really acquire a taste for arepas, the flat, grilled corn cakes that are like a thick tortilla and are served with everything from shredded beef to a slice of bland queso blanco, but they're available in all their permutations. A popular treat for carnivores is the morcilla black sausage ($2.50), like German blood sausage or English black pudding with a hot-pepper kick.
Service is polite and prompt, and protein fans will shout, "Oh! Que bueno!" for the ethnic cuisine.