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.