Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Valderrama and Gloria Pritchett. An unlikely trio, but three of Colombia’s most famous sons and daughters.
The country much maligned in the 1980’s for all the wrong reasons is back with a vengeance and suffering a global cultural Renaissance, one which has even made it to Hong Kong with the city’s first Colombian restaurant. Cafe 33 y mucho mas may call themselves Latin American, but the flag leaves little doubt as to where their heart lies.
‘Restaurant’ may be pushing it as in size, vibe, price point and indeed name, this is a café. There can’t be more than about 16 seats, but it immediately gives the place a convivial feel. This being the new hipster enclave of Haven street, worryingly only 300 yards from our front door, there’s an eclectic and bohemian mix of diners.
It’s simply decorated, the horizontal stripes of the national flag here, some mementos there – and a small pantry of produce for sale, strangely prominent amongst which is apple cider vinegar.
The menu explains dishes and techniques clearly, laying out house specialties and regional staples. The most prominent of the latter are ‘Arepas’, grilled flatbreads made from ground maize that have quickly become my new favorite vehicle for fillings. The vegetarian takes the ‘hongo’ with sautéed mushrooms, garlic, cheese, avocado, basil, pine nuts and enoki, dispatching it with enthusiasm and uncommon haste.
Horizontal thin dominoes of Halloumi – are livened by a perky salsa:
Fried zucchini flowers and artichoke are a beer snack from the gods when paired with their yoghurt dipping sauce. These shall be re-ordered another time.
As, indeed, will their sweet potato fries with Himalayan pink salt and Sriracha suero. The carnivore’s choice of main is their signature plate of ‘Bandejas’, a mouthful to read and a sight to behold:
Frijoles are Colombian home-style beans in a sauce made from fresh veggies, tomato and pork stock. Alongside, firstly chicharones, the pork scratchings of the Spanish-speaking world which can only ever be great. Spanish chorizo is there too, even if more would have been welcome, along with avocado and a stub of scorched corn on the cob.
The plate continues with one of their plain ‘arepitas’, a mini version of the flatbreads, along with garlic quinoa rice crowned by a sunny side up free range egg. It’s a great intro to an unfamiliar cuisine, a dish whose parts sit well together without fighting for bragging rights.
It’s substantial enough to make us forgo the intriguing desserts, but we barely scratched the surface of the menu with its salads, soups, stews and more. Another good reason to return. It’s also a steal – dinner for two (No drinks) came in under $400.
33 Haven Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong +852 9636 3371 https://www.facebook.com/33cafehk