One of the thousands of reasons I love living in California is its diversity of people, cultures and, correspondingly, food. We are blessed to have so many restaurant cuisines from around the globe within just a few miles from home. Trying new flavors and dishes is my happy place. Over the years, I have tried unexpected foods like scorpion, snake, worm, blood, cricket, snail, and frog’s legs.
As such, it’s a bit more challenging to find a cuisine I haven’t yet tried. For dinner tonight, I aimed to find one. There are only three Columbian restaurants in Orange County and one happens to be in Huntington Beach. So off we went to El Porton Colombiano on Adams Avenue.
The restaurant had a lively ambiance of authentic Colombian music. Hung along the golden yellow walls, and equally interspaced with black and white historic photos, were TVs playing scenic video of the countryside, cities and beaches. Tables were set with blue paper placemats, white plates and red cloth napkins.
We were greeted by a man, who I assume is the owner based on how proudly he explained each dish on the menu and that they were chosen from his home town favorites. As he listed their drinks, I ordered a Lulo blended fruit soda because it’s a unique fruit that he described as tasting like a mix of strawberry and kiwi. My husband ordered a Colombian beer, Aguila.
When the owner, who was also the waiter, described the appetizers and entrees, I opted for what felt the most adventurous. To start, I ordered the Morcilla con Arepa, which was a sausage made of blood, ground pork, and rice. The flavor was rich and a little like liver. We both enjoyed it.
My husband ordered the Aborrajado, which was a giant deep fried plantain mound full of cheese with what tasted like a coconut drizzle. It had a nice mix of sweet and savory.
For our main meals, I ordered the Tamal Paisa, which was a cornmeal stuffed with bacon, chopped pork ribs, pork loin and topped with vegetables all wrapped in plantain leaves. Served steaming hot, it was more tender and moist than a Mexican tamale.
My husband ordered the Arepa Parcera, which was a flat corn cake (like a thick tortilla) covered with beans, pork crackling, and sausage topped with guacamole and potato fries. He thoroughly enjoyed it.
The meal portions were so large and filling that we only finished half.
Despite full bellies, I wanted to try one of their desserts to complete the meal. We chose the Obleas con Arequipe because it reminded my husband of stroopwafel, which is a favorite of his Dutch family. It did not disappoint. The caramel was perfectly creamy smooth and they added a sprinkle of coconut for added texture and flavor. The cheery waiter/owner, who beamed with pride when talking about the food, offered to bring us coffees on the house. He was very sweet and I could tell he was excited to share his passion with newbies.
It’s easy to get in a rut with routines. It’s refreshing to step out of our comfort zone of the same restaurants we frequent each weekend. The food at El Porton was excellent, the service was superb and we’ll definitely be back!