Watered down Colombia at ‘La Cascada’

A good dining experience is all about the atmosphere. From the moment one enters a restaurant, the tone for the meal is set. Mood lighting, music, aromas — every one of the senses adds to how one expects the meal. So, from the moment one enters La Cascada, the new Colombian restaurant in New Haven, the tone for the meal is set — and not in a good way.

Located across the bridge on Grand Avenue and Nowhere, the restaurant does not have the ideal location for a Yale student who wants to grab a quick bite without splurging for a cab. But even if the location were more desirable, it remained inexcusable that the nearly-formal La Cascada has no host to greet the patrons, no place to put your coat, and very few other customers, if any. The cloth napkins, doubtful crystal glasses, and general pseudofanciness of the locale should have mandated a hostess, or at least someone who spoke English.

From there, thankfully, the experience gets better. Colombian music accompanies a (single) sassy yet good-hearted waitress in setting the mood. The menu features authentically Colombian dishes — from Bistec A Caballo (steak and eggs) to Milanesa De Cerdo (breaded pork) to their specialty, Banana Flan (banana flan). The prices on the menu are college-friendly enough, approximately $25 for a three-course meal. The menu is divided down into “Sopa del Dia / Soup of the Day,” “Platos Típicos / Typical Dishes,” “Comida De Mar / Sea Food” and “Desayunos / Breakfast,” which for some reason includes the flan, and is served all day.

The drinks are all Colombian sodas and alcoholic beverages, which was a nice touch that made the meal feel more authentic.

Unfortunately, the service and food are not worth the price. In a valiant attempt to serve all the dishes at the same time, La Cascada waited 27 minutes before serving the soup, steak, “breakfast” and “Sea Food” at the same time. As a result, the meat was too cold, the soup was too hot, and the appetizers were mixed with the entrées.

La Cascada succeeded in providing an extremely bipolar meal. They hit high points with a flavorful steak and eggs ($11.95) and their delicious, omnipresent rice. The texture and flavors worked harmoniously together to create a nearly acceptable dish. That is, had the steak been the right temperature, it would have been a wholly successful dish. While everything on the plate was cooked well, the highlight of the dish was the Colombian flare that came with the egg and spicy peppers.

Rice came on the side of almost everything, regardless of the menu’s description, and was probably the best part of my choice within “Platos Típicos.” That is, it was the only thing in the meal that did not require extra seasoning and provided a unique/tasty side-dish that overshadowed almost everything it was served with.

The restaurant also disappointed with their undercooked, cold eggs and their excuse for a breakfast sausage (read: a hot dog sliced into four pieces). The soup had a great, hearty and vegetable-rich taste, but the main ingredient, the chicken, was surprisingly dry and tasteless. Needless to say, this portion of the meal was a underwhelming attempt to replicate Colombian cuisine.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the complete absence of any vegetarian options on the entire menu — they even refused to serve the vegetarian side dishes separate from an order.

Ultimately, La Cascada fell flat until the flan came. She lit up when it was ordered and exclaimed that it was the best thing on the menu. It really was. Both moist and firm, La Cascada’s banana flan was filling and, by far, the most tasty part of the night.

If nothing else, order the flan delivery.

Comments

  • Rubagoob12

    All Reviews
    La Cascada
    Review from Allie O.

    Woodside, NY
    2/13/2011 As a Colombian living in New Haven, my life became complete when I found out about La Cascada. My expectations were high, coming from a combination of excellent Colombian cuisine in Queens and, of course, amazing meals back in Pereira, but La Cascada definitely lived up to them.

    The decor and atmosphere of the restaurant is probably the classiest I’ve seen for an authentic Colombian restaurant, but I liked it and think it adds something a little more formal to the dining experience. I had heard the empanadas were good as an appetizer, and I was not let down–throughout the entire meal I could not stop telling my boyfriend how happy I was that everything tasted like home.

    For the actual meal, I ordered a Milanesa de Cerdo (breaded pork), which was delicious and on par with my favorite restaurants in Queens. The plates are HUMONGOUS (I’m used to normal-sized plates that just get food heaped onto them) and, as all Colombian food, the portions are hefty. You must come hungry. The Bandeja Paisa (Country Platter) that my boyfriend ordered was no exception and I was pleased to see that the avocado was fresh and they even included chorizo, which was a nice touch.

    The service was very good and they even asked what kind of music I wanted to listen to! We were also offered some delicious red wine that made the dinner even more special.

    La Cascada is still adding its finishing touches (they are still in the process of completing the decor of their back-room bar, which was very stylish), but I’m already incredibly excited to go back. It is a little out of the way, though definitely still walking distance from the Yale campus and downtown New Haven. I think the location may be a problem for the restaurant, especially in winter, but once they get people to try the food, they will develop a loyal fan base because it was THAT good. So happy.

  • Rubagoob12

    2friends
    1review
    Victor W.

    New Haven, CT
    2/13/2011 1 photo This new place has great authentic Colombian food at very reasonable prices. The portions are huge. The ambiance and decor are quite nice too.

    I had the Bandeja Paisa “country platter” which apparently is the standard dish by which you are supposed to judge Colombian food. I actually went with a Colombian and she said it was better than Bandeja Paisa served at some places in Colombia. The amount of food on the dish was overwhelming.

    I also tried the empanada which was very good. The meal was finished off with some coffee which came also in a very large serving.

    The place is quite new and seems like a hidden secret from most of New Haven. It is still getting up and running to what the owner envisions it to be — so expect a few kinks like the menus which are not commensurate in style or quality to the rest of the restaurant. Its location is probably the only real negative since it’s tucked away a few blocks from the Yale campus and not near anything in particular. Regardless, it was worth the trek in the middle of winter.