Monthly review: La Casona
28 Feb, 2012 | Robbie Macdonald
Av. Mariscal Santa Cruz, next to Walisuma La Paz, Bolivia
The 'working lunch' menu seems to be much more of a common practice here in South America than the other continents. Some countries are starting to be infiltrated by western customs and cutting lunch breaks to an hour or so, but here in La Paz two easy going hours still seems to be the custom for most companies. And so arises the lunch time set menu at many of the Zona Central eateries. A planned menu that can be quickly ordered and produced quickly for the worker who wants to enjoy a proper set of courses, but doesn't have the lounging time enjoyed after an evening meal. There are several different price ranges, starting from just 12 Bs. The one we picked, upon recommendation, was La Casona's menu for 30 Bs, perhaps a price aimed at the executive luncher, but reasonable all the same.
It is a cavernous little venue; plenty of exposed brick and arched cellar ceilings give a rustic feel, while sharply dressed staff reinforces a cosmopolitan aura. It was evident that there were two types of diners present: those enjoying a long meal, and those on a working lunch choosing the set menu. After falling into the second group the service becomes rapid, but not hurried. We are instructed to browse the salad bar for our starter. It is a mix of potato, pasta, coleslaw, plantain and barley. It was slightly tepid in temperature (generally expected for salad bar) but nicely herbed. No sooner had we finished the last piece of pasta the plate was whisked away and we were given a chowder de choclo (white corn). It was deliciously creamy and packed with vegetables. Perhaps slightly too heavy for the delicate appetite, but in Bolivia the words delicate and appetite rarely come together. The main was a choice of four platters; I opted for medallions of Llama. It was twice the size of what I was expecting. The llama was served in blue cheese sauce, which I was also not really expecting, but it actually worked quite well with the meaty flavor of the llama. Chips and boiled vegetable complimented the meat to make what seemed like a South American flavoured roast dinner. Lastly was a perhaps the most erratically decorated fruit salad I had ever seen. A small bowl of fruit placed on a huge plate garnished with chocolate mousse, icing sugar and cocoa powder.