Bogotá Eats: El Mejor Ajiaco del Mundo
We had planned on doing a couple tours the one day we had in Bogotá: a graffiti tour in the morning and a city tour in the afternoon (and we even considered a food tour). In the end, the folks from the graffiti tour didn't write back to me to confirm the tour; in fact to this day I still have no word from them. But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it gave us a morning to enjoy the Gold Museum at leisure - it's truly a museum you want to enjoy at leisure, as the exhibits are truly awe-inspiring and educational!
And it's not as if we didn't get to see some awesome graffiti on our own. Check out this mural of cats - and notice how the corner cat has part of its eye painted on the backside of the stop sign and electricity pole!
The Gold Museum was so much fun, and thanks to using Google Maps offline, I also discovered that it was a short walk to the restaurant I wanted to try, the self-aggrandizing "El Mejor Ajiaco del Mundo" - means, "the best ajiaco in the world" in Spanish! This walk led us down the bustling Carrera 6, full of pedestrians and street vendors.
The vendors sold all kinds of snacks; here's a vendor selling gelatin of pig hoof. It looks like it has the texture of taffy - would love to try it next time!
We soon found ourselves at the Plaza de Bolivár, one of the main sights of the city, which was also packed with people. Some were selling special Pope merchandise in preparation for the Pope's visit to Bogotá in a couple days.
We were having such a good time seeing sights on our won, that we also nixed the idea of going on the afternoon walking tour in favor of a relaxing lunch at "El Mejor Ajiaco del Mundo." Turns out the restaurant has a "real" name, Antigua Santa Fe, but I will say their nickname really caught my attention. I read reviews online where Bogotá locals (santafereños in Spanish) did agree with the restaurant's proclamation, that it served the best ajiaco.
After a short wait, we scored a table upstairs...
...and proceeded to order a sampling of dishes to share.
Here is the famous ajiaco, a chicken soup made with two types of potatoes, one that melts in the soup to thicken it, and the other that stays in chunks. Topped with sour cream and capers, it also has a whole corn on the cob that you can fish out with the stick. Thick and rib-sticking, I can see how this is a dish well-suited to the often chilly and drizzly Bogotá! It's served with rice and a quarter of an avocado.
Another chicken soup that was more of a "classic" clear chicken soup was the sancocho, also delicious, in a lighter way.
I'd also read about the tamales here, so I had to try one. For me, this was my favorite dish of the day. With a whole bone-in chicken leg and chunk of pork fat embedded in the corn, the whole banana leaf-wrapped package was permeated with a comforting meatiness. And the corn dough itself was interesting. Whereas the tamales I'd had in the US usually used a finely ground corn flour to make a very smooth paste, this corn was more chunky, like as if it were cooked corn kernels pulverized to make the paste. Absolutely delicious!
We also ordered a bandeja paisa, which is supposed to be a common dish throughout Colombia. This is the dish to order if you're super hungry! It included beans, rice, chicharrones, ground meat, a chorizo link, a morcilla (black sausage) link, avocado, plantain, all topped with a fried egg. All of the components were yummy, but we just had too much food at this point.
Unfortunately I don't have good pictures of our drinks, but they were also a highlight of the meal. The waiter recited a whole list of fresh fruit juices that they could prepare, but recommended the lulo and mango juices. Mango juice is always delicious, but I'd never heard of lulo before. Turns out, it's a fruit that looks like an orange from the outside, but from the inside it looks like a segmented yellow-green tomato! It was so light with a refreshing tang to it; definitely a taste to remember.
The restaurant is actually just down the street from the Museo Botero, an excellent museum with the works that the artist Fernando Botero himself donated, so we headed there after finishing lunch. What had started out as a day planned with guided walks through the city, as we were quite uncertain with our bearings being the first time we were in Colombia and Bogotá, turned out be a rewarding day exploring on our own hitting top sights and being treated to a wonderful lunch!
El Mejor Ajiaco del Mundo / Antigua Santa Fe
Calle 11 #6-20