I really wanted to love this place; It might grow on me. Right now, I am a little on the fence, but think it deserves another shot. I think I even said, “I like this place, but I feel a little like I am in a strip mall in Columbia”. Alma has a modern, clean feel with a focus on Venezuelan food. I like that you can see the section of the kitchen where they make the traditional delicacy: the Arepa. It was still happy hour, so we sat at the bar, ordered some drinks, chatted with the bartenders, and got some advice on food.
We started with Luis Brito’s Pig arepa before my seriously deprived avocado allergic friend arrived. The corn cake is served in a paper holder, and stuffed with pulled pork, a Portuguese mojo sauce of tomatoes, a little lettuce, and one of my favorite’s an avocado purée. The pulled pork had great flavor, but this was one of those dishes, where the sum was not as great as the parts – all together, it kind of fell flat. We also tried the La National with shredded beef that was quite tender and meshed well with the ripe plantains. I like the addition of the black beans, which they slow cook, and my most favorite herb, cilantro.
I thought they were good; the arepas are a decent size, but they do not split well. Be sure that you don’t mind passing it back and forth amongst the group if your planning on sharing. I was hoping to be wowed – this is their speciality. Don’t get me wrong, they were tasty. I felt like the corn cakes didn’t seem super fresh – maybe because it was later in the day? I don’t know… I would keep trying them, but at a price of $8-$12 each, it might not be feasible.
The ceviche dishes, however, more than made up for it. Based on different recommendations from the bar, we tried both the Tiradito Mahi and the Vuelve a La Vida. Both fantastic but perfectly different. The former was a plate of house cured mahi-mahi with lots of different sauces to add depth and balance. Fish was super fresh, sliced thin. The different sauces made for a gorgeous dish; each bite tasted a little different: a little smokey, sometimes herbaceous, and my favorite – a little spice. The cassava bread crumbles added to the texture and crunch, a perfect combo with the crisp, bitter micro-greens.
I actually preferred the Vuelve a la Vida – which was octopus, shrimp, scallop and calamari marinated in a smokey and spicy tomato based sauce. Maybe because octopus and scallops are my favorite thing – nevertheless, I loved this. The seafood kept its texture and flavor and it meshed well with the veggie chips and the crispy crunchy concha de arepa.
We added on a few more sides to round out the meal. Oh my those yuca fries. I like to think they are healthier than regular fries, probably not much, but they were so tasty, we ordered a second round. If you are looking for something a little sweet go for the plantains.
While sitting at the bar, I couldn’t help with but watch the guys making this signature drink: La Sombra Del Mezcal. I was a little nosey and asked what they were making – I heard tequila, mezcal, lime, cilantro, and jalapeño. If you have read more than one of my posts or follow me on instagram, you will know how I feel about all five of those things. The cocktail is a mix of Suerte Blanco Tequila, La Sombra Mezcal and fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice. They add a little papelón syrup and mole bitters which adds to the smokiness of the mezcal. It’s garnished with a jalapeño and a bright green, cilantro mojo. This was a highlight – I liked it better than all of the wines I tasted.
Thanks Janet for your pics – you are the best!