It’s noon midweek and Diana García is buzzing. Office workers filter in from the towers of Bogotá’s financial district on the Calle 72 to secure a table for lunch. Like many other venues in this busy part of the capital, a line forms outside as staff scurry to accommodate guests. Diana García’s slogan is “Chef in movement” and by the activity in the upstairs kitchen and the brisk waiters, this chef is living up to her reputation.
Having grown up in Montería, the capital of Córdoba department in northern Colombia, Diana García translates her love of Costeño culture in a menu rich with hearty recipes. Poultry, beef and seafood are accompanied with rice and garden greens. Many of García’s starter dishes showcase coastal delicacies, such as fried carimañolas and the arepitas de huevo. Her salads draw on global ingredients, such as a Brazilian salad with crab and avocado, caramel- ized Thai chicken salad and a healthy Greek salad with olives, olive oil and cubed feta.
An ‘Arabian rice’ as part of the main courses shows how the Lebanese community of the Colombian coast influenced local gastronomy. A pasta ‘Primavera’ with tomatoes and aubergines nods to one of the Middle East’s favorite vegetables. I opt for the first item on the main course, a posta negra Monteriana. This slow-cooked beef prepared in many Cartagena kitchens is covered in a sweet, sticky sauce, giving the fillet a black (negra) texture. Here gravy is simmered to boil and mixed with Coca Cola or the costeño pink soda equivalent: Kola Roman. The meat is served with traditional coconut rice, plantain chips and salad.
Given the slow cooked nature of a posta negra, it’s a difficult dish to come by in this busy city. At Diana García, it’s a house favorite. But there are risks. Unless served on the spot, the meat can become dry and shredded. Diana García’s chicken and squid Thai curry rice was creamy and full bodied.
Diana Garcia pulls it off with her wide range of menu listings. Besides relatively heavy Colombian dishes with meat and carbs there are 30 lighter options of sandwiches, wraps and soups. There is also a Spanish tapas platter, a Philadelphia roast beef sandwich and some pleasing wraps. A confounding number of Asian participants fight their way through the menu, including Vietnamese pork ribs, a vegetarian couscous, and Jaipur curry. Montería dining knows no frontiers.
Since choice is important at Diana García, try her assortment of juices. The presence of guanabana and feijoa exceeds expectations. Being a costeño inspired venue you will get your coconut lemonade, and a Kola Roman milk shake, blended with the coast’s favorite red soda. Then you have really exotic fruits, such as corózo, zapote and nispero.
Diana García is versatile dining at an affordable price. Her menu is inspired and far from pretentious.Her restaurant opens early (from 7 am onwards), attending clients with a typical assortment of fried goodies, known on the coast as fritos. García’s Colombian breakfast includes a calentado and arepas.
Diana García is an honest representative of her region and a creative take on international dining. Her generous selection of dishes are prepared with care and keep customers returning. Good honest food is a formula that never fails, and at Diana García it attracts a hungry crowd.
Carrera 7 No.70-94
Jessica Wong writes for: onechineseincolombia.com