Donde Adela: Colombian Chowdown

Want proof that God exists? He has not only answered my prayers, but also blessed me with twice what I asked for! Faithful readers know I prayed on these pages and in private for years that a Colombian restaurant would open in la naranja; Colombians make up the largest segment of our South American community, and the cuisine of their homeland is rustically spectacular. Well, God complied by gifting OC with Mitze's Kountry Kitchen in Laguna Hills a couple of years back (still going strong, still great as ever), and now there's a second Colombian restaurant in the county: Donde Adela in Orange.

If you're not familiar with Colombian food, no worries: next to Argentinian cuisine, it's the most American of Latin American foods, with its love of proteins and starch. Take Donde Adela's sobrebarriga criolla, a plate of beans, rice, fried plantains and potatoes, as well as an epic steam-cooked flank steak presented alongside bell peppers. If you don't like the meat so juicy, you can always order it caballo-style (grilled). And then there's the constellation of meats known as the bandeja paisa: turgid chorizos, chicharrones that resemble timing belts (a line I've used before, and I'll use it again because it's so apt), and eggs your style. Any of those meals could double as a Norm's special in a pinch, but far tastier and almost as cheap.

These dishes make up almost the entirety of the regular menu; almost everything else are daily and weekly specials, which necessitates multiple visits (I still haven't tried Donde Adela's version of ajiaco, the Colombian potato soup famous for at least three tubers bobbing in its dark-yellow broth). But also a constant are the arepas, here thick and accompanied by a slab of queso fresco. And the drink menu, though small, is eclectic: two types of passion-fruit juices (lulo is sweeter than the maracuya), blackberry juice, even aguapanela, water made from boiled chunks of hardened brown sugar and cut with lime—sweet and sour personified.

And if the waitress ever calls you “mi amor” (my love) over the cumbias and vallenatos, know that you're now family: it's a Colombian term of endearment. Consider yourself blessed that God gave us Donde Adela—and now that I know He listens, maybe I'll pray for Dominican food next. . . .

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