Once Seth and I realized that it was too cold and dreary to go follow through with our Saturday plans, we decided forego our scheduled trip to the Parque de la Independencia in lieu of lunch at El Calamar del Pacifico and an afternoon of college football.
El Calamar del Pacifico is a very small yet very popular restaurant just down the street from our apartment. Presumably located inside a decommissioned garage, it offers a modest menu of coastal Colombian specialties, including cazuela de mariscos (seafood stew), cazuela de camarones (shrimp stew), pescados fritos (fried fish), and pescados en salsa (fish in sauce). Each dish is served with a cup of consomé de pescado (warm fish broth with herbs and lime), two patacones (smashed and fried plantains), a mound of arroz con coco (coconut rice), and one’s choice of limonada (limeade) or guarapo (pressed sugarcane juice). Additionally, the cazuelas are topped with a generous sprinkling of grated cheese and a half-shot of brandy. Bonus!
Throughout my time in Bogotá, I have ordered cazuela three times—cazuela de frijoles at Restaurante Chela, cazuela de “mondongo” vegetariano at Vegetariano Revolución de la Cuchara, and cazuela de mariscos at El Calamar del Pacifico—and each time I completely underestimated the portion of food. Unlike soups and stews in the United States, which are cooked in a pot and ladled into a flat-bottomed bowl, cazuelas are traditionally stewed and served in the same perfectly spherical cast-iron pot. When the stock and seafood mixture has finished simmering, the pot is carefully placed into a wooden or wicker contraption and brought to the table, still bubbling and frothing at the edges. After I have eaten half of my meal I expect my spoon to bottom out, but it never does.
In our opinion, the cazuela de mariscos and the cazuela de camarones are far better in quality and depth of flavor than the much-talked-about bandeja paisa. However, it is probably unfair for us to even compare the two, as they come from entirely different regions. (Basically, it is the equivalent of pitting Texas barbecue against New England clam chowder.) One thing is for sure, though: today’s dining adventure has us dreaming of future vacations to warm and sunny Cartagena.
[El Calamar del Pacifico: Carrera 9A # 60-84, Bogotá-Colombia]