From the outside, Abasto with its white walls and floodlights could easily be mistaken for a warehouse inspired by an Edward Hopper painting. Once used as grain depot in the municipality of Usaquén, hence its name in Spanish, Abasto is an airy, beautifully decorated restaurant catering to a clientele in search of healthy foods and dishes served with Mediterranean and North African ingredients.
With its lofty dining area and seating lounge, Abasto is also a café and “bodega” where carefully-chosen fresh produce and wines are sold on the premises. Most of the ingredients which chef Luz Beatrice Vélez and her staff incorporate into the menu can be purchased at Abasto making the trip to the north of the city more than just a dining experience.
After opening its doors in 2007, Abasto established itself as one of the city’s more informal restaurants with a varied menu and reasonable prices. Lunch and dinner specials are hand-written in chalk next to an open kitchen giving the restaurant more of a European bistro-like ambience. A varied music playlist adds to Abasto’s appeal, as chef Vélez personally oversees every aspect of her gourmet venue.
Abasto is a delight on the senses. From the flowing melodies of the by-gone British pop invasion of the 1980s to the Moroccan cous cous served in black earthenware bowls from the Chamba community in southern Tolima, Vélez draws on many international influences without compromising a Colombian identity. Local fruits such as lulo, mango and maracuya are offered, while favorites such as fresh corn empanadas with a Mexican mole dip find their way to the table. Other favorites to nibble on include the Santa Rosa chorizos and antipasto made with grilled vegetables and local goat cheese.
Having traveled extensively through countries such as Germany, China, Mexico and Vietnam, Luz Beatrice incorporates specific cooking techniques and influences from each country without falling into ‘fusion’ confusion. “It is a mixture of all that I have lived,” says the chef, as she tries to catch her breath during a busy lunchtime rush. Open seven days a week, Abasto also offers a weekend breakfast for those with an appetite for Colombian arepa de huevo, a typical corn and egg patty from the coast as well as European favorites such as fried tomatoes and grilled sausages. Brunch starts at 9:00 a.m on Saturday and Sunday and runs until 2:00 p.m.
One of the charming qualities of Abasto is its capacity to evolve and change. The beige paper menu reveals the “market” nature of an establishment which keeps its prices affordable. The shrimp in coconut sauce with achiote and sweet aji peppers and daily offering of fresh fish from Cartagena, such as the white tuna and sea bass, are also highly recommended dishes.
In a city in which finding a good roast is difficult, Abasto has made this possible. On weekends roasted chicken and a very British roast beef are very much in demand and served generously in their natural juice. In this artsy diner, in the heart of Usaquén’s colonial quarter, the tradition of the Sunday lunch lives on. Arriba Abasto.
Carrera 6 No. 119B-52