Sausage links, pork cracklings, fried eggs, and steak are popular Southern comfort foods, but they also happen to be staples of Colombian cuisine. Chef Sonia Chaux, a Colombia native, recently opened El Balconcito (“The Little Balcony”) in South Fort Worth, specializing in made-from-scratch South American cooking in a warm, friendly atmosphere.
The dining area is cozy, big enough for only a handful of tables. Knick-knacks and the bright red, yellow, and blue of the Colombian flag make up the décor.
The thick cornmeal casing on the empanadas kept their stuffing of chopped, tender steak and chunks of potato steaming hot. The buñuelos (fried golden balls of soft, sweet dough and bits of mild cheese) tasted sort of like French beignets and were the perfect partner to Balconcito’s café con leche Colombiano, a stimulating pick-me-up with more than a couple spoonfuls of sugar and lots of hot, frothy milk.
Soups are as popular in Colombia as pizza is in North America. Filled with big pieces of unripened plantains, potatoes, and yucca, the chicken broth-based sancocho was plentiful enough to feed two diners or more. And it was hearty. Though nary a scrap of meat was to be found, the soup was thick and full of savory chicken flavor.
The mojarra frita was a tasty example of coastal Colombian cooking. Each bite of the nearly foot-long fried fish was mild and fall-apart tender. Admittedly, there were spiny bones to work through, but most of the flesh fell off without any real effort. Two large, fresh lime wedges added a light kick without hiding any of the delicate flavors. In line with the tropical ingredients, a bowl of coconut rice (a blend of white rice and finely grated coconut) offered a delectable aroma and some welcome sweetness. The dish was rounded out by two very different takes on plantains. The heartier version consisted of two thick, silver dollar-sized fried chips topped with a zesty ají sauce (diced cilantro, onions, and chiles in vinegar). The other, riper version came out as long, sweet slices.
The best entrée was the bandeja paisa, by definition a smorgasbord of Latin flavors. A large, juicy grilled skirt steak anchored a meat-centric mix of chicharrones (pork cracklings), caramelized plantains, two firm and creamy avocado wedges, slow-cooked caramanto beans, a chorizo sausage link, white rice, and a fried egg. With so many choices, it was hard to know where to start. The chorizo was smoky, piquant with paprika, and exploding with dense, finger-lickin’ goodness. These fiery meats were balanced by the generous portions of buttery rice and beans.
The only letdown of the meal was the pechuga de pollo a la plancha, an uninspired chicken breast with white rice and syrupy plantain slices. The poultry, which had an herb coating of undetectable flavor, was noticeably on the dry side.
The owner, who also doubled as our waitress, made the experience feel like a family meal at her home.
901 W Seminary Dr, FW. 682-703-1583. 9:30am-7pm Sun, 12pm-9pm Wed-Fri, 9:30am-9pm Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Empanada …………………………………… $1.99
Café con leche Colombiano …………… $2.25
Bandeja paisa ……………………………. $13.99
Mojarra frita ………………………………. $12.99