Note: This is the first in a series of reviews of Bolivian Restaurants in the Northern Virginia area.
9542-B Arlington Blvd
Mammoth PA speakers belted out Bolivian brass band classics, as the volume-less flat-screen TV showed the Nickoledon cartoon Bob Esponja (Spongebob). Entire families spread across two or three tables while attentive waiters would stand patiently to be “a tus ordenes.” That was the atmosphere, and often I had to remind myself what country I was in.
Another reminder of Bolivia was the overabundance of food. This was the first buffet-style restaurant that I have encountered catering to the Bolivian community. There’s a bit of conventional wisdom that says that if natives of a particular country are dining there, then you can count on it being authentic.
Advertised as a criollo (native) buffet, for $7.95 (the price of a plate at other local places), one could definitely have their fill, including a small salad selection, two kinds of soup (sopa de mani and fricase), and four different entrees, as well as majadito and chicharron.
Unfortunately, I’ve had better sopa de mani, as this was severely watered down to be enough for the growing crowd. But the main courses all but made up for it. Now people accuse me of being of being a fake Bolivian, because I refuse to eat chuño and lengua, and mote if I can help it, but those naysayer can’t bring me down.
Eliminating these choices still left a lot for picante de pollo and the highlight was the beef. Couple that with arroz con queso, which seldom you find on the menu, then the meal was complete. Baskets of fresh bread would be brought out every 15 minutes fresh out of the oven (hence the name of the restaurant?).
Trying to decide from the menu is often the worst part of dining in a restaurant. However, the buffet option allows you to sample and then go back for those items you find exquisite. For me, I’d be happy with the beef, arroz con queso and yuca. This would probably have been an outstanding meal, if they added a buck or two and included salteñas on the fare, but now I’m just being difficult.
The criollo buffet is served only on the weekends. A smaller non-Bolivian exclusive buffet is served from Tuesday-Friday.