Finding Colombian food in Albuquerque is quite difficult. It’s almost impossible. I’ve searched the entire city for a restaurant that specializes in that cuisine. Finally, I hear through the foodie grapevine there’s a little bistro whose sole focus is on Colombian eats. Ajiaco, a spot that’s been around for a handful of years, serves up some of the city’s best South American food.
I got to check out the bistro a couple of years back, but I didn’t truly appreciate the atmosphere on my last visit. So I headed back to immerse myself in their cuisine. I took some friends to tag along and show them a little food culture. The first thing we ordered was some of their killer empanadas.
Empanadas are one of South America’s staples. Toasty little pasties that end on a sweet note. We got one of each. They delivered the perfect beginning to our adventure through Colombian gastronomy. The beef and chicken empanadas were incredibly bold. Both provided a sweet and succulent touch to each bite. However, my personal favorite was their “Hawaiian” themed treat: an empanada filled with mozzarella, ham and pineapple, nicely complementing the sweetness of the breading.
After completing the starters, we started evaluating the menu. From top to bottom our minds could not decide what we wanted. Each option sounded incredible. Facing a menu with limited options made the decision a little easier. I decided to go with the arepa sandwich ($15), while the others ordered the carne con arepa ($22) and the patacón con ropa vieja ($17).
The food took quite some time to arrive at our table, but to me that’s always a good signal. Good food takes patience and consideration. It also lets you take in the atmosphere of the eatery. Ajiaco isn’t huge, but what it lacks in size is made up for by the modern, bohemian vibe it provides. It’s easy on the eyes, and when I’m eating my entrees, I always want the two to pair well together. That’s how you know the owners care about providing the ultimate culinary experience.
Finally, the dishes arrived for our group. Each dish was intoxicating, visually and by smell. My sandwich was toasted to golden perfection, and the salad was glistening from the sun gleaming through the window. I tried the salad first. On occasion ordering a salad from an eatery can be a risky move. You can sometimes tell an establishment has been letting those salads sit for days, but not this one. Each bite was refreshing and crispy to the next. Their homemade vinaigrette was the winning ingredient. A mixture of tart yet sweet was the finishing note at the end of each bite. It was the perfect transition to the main event.
As I gravitated toward the sandwich, I could tell from each cut that Ajiaco knew the importance of toasted bread. It was the perfect balance of soft, yet crunchy. Upon first taste I had a sudden sensation come over me. The blend of the sauteed chicken, creole sauce and cilantro was impeccable. It gave me the true taste of Colombian cuisine. Each fluffy bite was better than the next. An amazing entree I’ll be getting again.
While the others dug into their dishes, I wasn’t going to let them finish without giving me a taste. The carne con arepa was a steak-based dish featuring a rib eye cut. Most of the time, restaurants will ask you how you would like your steak cooked; this was not the case at Ajiaco. It seems like the chef took it into their own hands when preparing the temperature, and rightfully so. The meat was prepared with justice. Not too tough and not too red. It was impressive to see a chef’s confidence. A true artist.
Next was the patacón con ropa vieja. This dish was mainly shredded brisket, tostones and a side of beans. The carne was juicy and succulent with spices touching every taste bud. The tostones were a nice compliment to each bite. This will most definitely be my next entree of choice next visit.
Overall, my visit was a 10/10. The service was fantastic, the vibe was phenomenal, and most importantly the food was off the chain. If you haven’t made your way to Ajiaco, I implore you to do so. It’s important to support local businesses like Ajiaco, but also it’s crucial to get cultured on some great food. Head into the heart of Nob Hill and dine at Albuquerque’s lone Colombian eatery. You’ll be thanking me later.
Ajiaco Colombian Bistro
3216 Silver Ave. SE
Neighborhood: Nob Hill
Phone: (505) 266-2305