Great soup and dessert in Washington Heights.

Another neighborhood thus far neglected by this survey is Washington Heights, and my trip there last night was designed in part to rectify that oversight.  I have a friend at Columbia Medical School who came along for the ride (and, fortunately, was downtown to keep me company on the not-insignificant A train trip uptown).   I hadn’t been to the area in several years, and I still don’t think I’ve been there during the daylight, but walking from the train station, I noticed several intriguing fusion possibilities – chief among them the Dominican-Chinese place on Broadway and 170th.  Perhaps they’ll merit another visit?

For this trip, though, we settled on a restaurant on the way uptown and stuck with it.  Sietsema pretty much ignored the nabe on his 2005 list, but there were several possibilities mentioned on the 2003 “Latin” list.  We selected his 19th choice, Galicia #2, located at 4083 Broadway (a short walk north from the 168th St. station).  As the candy-seeking youngsters charged in and out, we perused the menus kept under the glass top of the table, discovering that none of the entrees were what we would consider cheap, to my chagrin and my friend’s consternation (apparently med students are more broke than college students – who knew?).

We also didn’t find the caldo gallego that Sietsema described in his entry on the list on either the menu or the neighboring daily specials list.  Needless to say, I was scratching my head.  Fortunately, just before the waitress arrived to take our order, I remembered that Sietsema loves to order stuff from chalkboard special menus, and I looked to my right and found the chalkboard containing our salvation – $4 bowls of the caldo gallego and, for my friend, a $6.50 half roast chicken.

Neither of these dishes required any prep time – we were served posthaste.  I tucked happily into my soup, pausing occasionally to soak one of the toasted pieces of bread that we were supplied with in the thick broth.  This was great soup.  It’s built on the leafy green known as kale, which is not exactly the same as collard greens (but close), big chunks of potatoes, white beans, slices of what I believe was tripe, chunks of bony meat that Sietsema dubs pork foot, and chorizo.  My stepfather makes a similar Portuguese stew called “Cal de vert,” though it omits the hoof and tripe in favor of more chorizo, perhaps at the expense of the meaty flavor that permeates the soup from green to starch.

My friend’s chicken was tender and juicy, though lacking in the distinctive flavor that I had come to expect from rotisserie chicken following my Pio Pio experience.  It was sided with a large portion of white rice and a cup of very good black beans – two could easily share a half chicken with these sides included.

Feeling flush with cash and having only spent $4 thus far on a grand feast, I ordered the dulce de leche ($2.50) for dessert, and was surprised to note its configuration when it came.  Expecting a caramel spread-like dip for bread or some kind of cookie, I was surprised when a plastic dish of something that looked like feta cheese with a maraschino cherry on top arrived in front of me.  Upon tasting it, I was further surprised to note that the cheesiness of the curd was not merely an appearance – it tasted, with its light, sugary topping, like a cross between the top of your mom’s apple crisp and mascarpone.

Needless to say, I was enthralled – when searching for clues later, I found what I believe is the answer – that the traditional dulce de leche recipe of South America differs in the Caribbean by virtue of separating the milk solids with vinegar.  Anyone know if that’s actually the case?  I didn’t see any reference to that step in the Argentinean dulce recipes I found.

Anyway, it’s nice to know that I’ve introduced my med school friend to what may be the cheapest decent restaurant in his vicinity, and it’s still nicer to know that I have more reasons to go visit him than to hang out at Columbia Med parties and wonder if I’ll ever trust a doctor again.  Thanks, Galicia!

1 Comment

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One response to “Great soup and dessert in Washington Heights.

  1. Ahhh, that sounds good! I’ve eaten…hardly anywhere uptown. Obviously there’s food up there, but I’m quite lazy. Doh.Dessert!!! Sounds very good.

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