December 2012

A taste of Cochabamba city - Casa de Campo

As a mission of getting to know the gastronomic world of Cochabamba city, a bunch of young and enthusiastic people from different parts of the world visit some of the most well-known but also some unknown restaurants, cafés and bars in Cochabamba. Out of it there will come several different and interesting reviews, which you can follow each month here in the Cochabanner.

By: Marie Cathrine Ettrup
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Ryde - Denmark

The “Pique Especial” – just start eating boys!
Photo: Marie Cathrine Ettrup

After being told from a lot of different Cochabambinos, that Casa de Campo is a restaurant worth visiting, six volunteers have done so. With expectations of getting a real authentic Bolivian evening Joanna from Germany, Ben from Australia, Laura and I from Denmark and Antoine and Jean-Baptiste from France meet at the big restaurant. The music, that is playing and showing on several TV-screens around the restaurant, is very rhythmic, in Spanish and is mostly salsa. The experience of a Latin American evening begins well this Thursday evening.

Casa de Campo means ‘cottage’ and there is no doubt about why the people behind the restaurant have chosen this specific interior

We get a table close to the clay cottage, which is built in the wall. In the ceiling there is bamboo and the bar in the other end of the restaurant is made as a beach cottage with a thatched roof. Together with the clay jars on the walls and the brown cotton lamps the restaurant seems to want to give you an experience from Lake Titicaca (or even from Africa). It works well, but if the restaurant was smaller it might have worked even better. Since the name, Casa de Campo, means ‘cottage’ there is no doubt about why the people behind the restaurant have chosen this specific interior. Casa de Campo is divided into four more or less big areas. The thought about the dividing seems to be that the guests will not feel the restaurant as big as it is, but it does not work as well as it maybe was intended to. You can hear the noise from the many other tables and you still have the feeling of sitting in a big room. This is a place that often has many guests though, so it needs the big space. At twenty o’clock the many tables are almost filled up with Cochabambinos. Some are here just for a drink, some good food and a talk with a friend or some family and some are playing the popular game, Cacho, with a cigarette in the hand and a beer on the side. There is every kind of age in the restaurant and it is clear, that Casa de Campo is a well visited restaurant.

The “Pato Dorado”
Photo: Marie Cathrine Ettrup

Smiling and similar dressed the waiters participate with a pleasant and controlled atmosphere. And with the view into the kitchen you know that there is control of everything. We order only three dishes, because most of the dishes easily can be eaten by two persons together. Joanna and Jean-Baptiste share the “Pato Dorado”, which is grilled duck with steamed vegetables, rice and French fries. Laura and I share a “Trucha a la Plancha”, which is two grilled trouts with rice, French fries and green salad. For the two last boys, Antoine and Ben, nothing less than the “Pique Especial” with marinated beef, chicken, sausage, hard boiled eggs, dressing, onions, tomatoes, hot pepper and French fries is ordered. Besides these three dishes you can get dishes with pork, different kinds of meat, fish, lamb, poultry, dishes especiales and spicy dishes. If you want a traditional dish you can choose between chorizos, chuleta, chicharron, lechón, three kinds of pique, churrasco, pacumuto, cabañitas and many more. The smiling waiter, in his black trousers and white shirt without tie or bow tie but with strings in the front, serves the duck first. Joanna and Jean-Baptiste taste it, but after a little while Joanna says: “it is already cold”. “I want to get it warmed up again”, Jean-Baptiste adds. With the duck getting warmed up Laura and I taste our fish. “It is cold really fast, but there is a lot of meat and it tastes really good. It is actually good even when it is cold. And adding the lemon just makes the taste even more delicious”, I explain. Laura agrees: “I really like it. It tastes surprisingly fresh and there is a lot of meat”. She continues: “The eye is really soft and slimy though, but I swallowed it really quickly!” “It is healthy for you”, Ben assures while eating the other eye. Antoine and Ben are gasping at first over the huge amount of food, the waiter serves for them. “It is a muy rico dish. I have never seen so much meat on one plate before. I love this country”, Antoine is not slow to say. “The chilli pepper is very hot though. My mouth still hurts after tasting it” he adds. Meanwhile, the duck has arrived again and this time it is warm. Jean-Baptiste underlines that “it is definitely better warm” and Joanna adds that “it is better, than I expected it to be. It is really good.”

Laura eating as much of the fish as possible – including the eye!
Photo: Marie Cathrine Ettrup

While waiting for the two desserts to come, the music DVD with the good salsa finishes and the following music is a mix of old 80’s classics. Between the artists, our ears now listen to, are Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder definitely worth mentioning. It is some nice music, but it is a strange change to go from Latin American music to old rock and pop classics from all over the world.

“I have never seen so much meat on one plate before. I love this country”

The “Torta de Merengue” and the “Torta Helada de Limon” are served, though there is not much room for more food in the stomachs. Furthermore the waiter serves a plate filled with salty nuts. The desserts are eaten and the nuts are almost gone. Well done for the six volunteers and their non- Bolivian stomachs.

Photo: Marie Cathrine Ettrup

There is definitely enough on the plates for two to share. By sharing the price does not get that expensive, too. For three dishes, two desserts and a lot of beer we pay 60 Bolivianos each, which is in the more expensive area of the price scale, but you walk away satisfied and with a full stomach. “If you are looking for a nice place to eat, Casa de Campo is a good place”, Antoine summarizes the evening. “It is bigger than I thought and a little expensive, but it is a good place”, he adds. “It is a nice thing that you have to share, but this is really a big place. I prefer a smaller place, where you can be more intimate”, Laura says and Jean-Baptiste agrees: “Casa de Campo is too big to be intimate. I think that it is nice to share a meal here with all your friends or family, but not only as a couple, or worse, as a single. The place is too big. But with the music, friends and the food, I am having a good time”.

- Pique Especial

- Trucha a la Plancha

- Pato Dorado

- Torta de Merengue

- Torta Helada de Limon

The retreat: Weekly serenade

According to the Diccionario de la Lengua Española, edited by the Real Academia Española, the word retreat comes from French, retraite and has four definitions: ”(1). f. Military signal made when retreating, and to advise the troops to pack up and go to bed in the barracks (2). f. Nightly festival in which the troops march through the streets with their different weapons, lamps, axes, music, and sometimes floats with different attributes and (3). f. Costa Rica and Cuba; nocturnal, open-air, musical function, generally in parks and promenades (4). f. Venezuela; a concert that offers military bands or other institutions in public plazas”. In Bolivia, the retreat references a generally nocturnal musical function (on Thursdays and/or Sundays), in the Plaza de Armas or Plaza Principal although, before, they were also held in the entrance of the military quarters.

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