bright and beautiful place deserves better culinary effort
out is like flying in an airplane. Every once in awhile, an establishment
takes you on a trip that reaches a high altitude and stays there,
coasting on excellent food, superior service and a relaxing ambience
before finally coasting to a smooth landing that leaves you with
the feeling that you just experienced a highly enjoyable culinary
there are others that take you on a rather bumpy ride that leaves
you feeling that "it could have been better...much better".
"La Esquina Van Gogh" is, unfortunately, one of the latter.
of all, I must state that I have a bias against frozen, pre-prepared
food being served in anything but a fast food restaurant. Either
make it fresh or don’t offer it. For example, our appetizer
order, the El Cuarteto de Vincent ($16.50 for 4 persons), featured
packaged breaded mozzarella sticks and packaged Hot Chicken Wings.
The nachos that filled one end of the platter were barely warm and
the cheese oozed on top was of the liquid variety, not melted. And
it was cold. As for the promised quesadilla, none were served. Instead
of a variety of ‘dipping sauces’, there was one. If
I want frozen mozzarella sticks and packaged hot chicken wings,
I will buy them at PriceSmart. Not a good start.
Guests of La Esquina de Van Gogh also enjoy a good selection of
art reproductions and free internet access.
up was Sopa de Cebolla/Onion Soup ($3.50). This needs to be removed
from the menu until the chef learns how to make it. What we tasted
was a broth that was definitely not beef or beef consúme,
the onions barely sauteed, not caramelized, and the bread slice
on top capped with a slice of cold cheese. No attempt had been made
to place the soup under a broiler to melt and brown the cheese as
is customary. It turned out that this procedure wasn’t necessary...the
soup liquid had so much oregano in it that we couldn’t, and
didn’t, eat it.
took a marginal upswing when the main courses arrived. The Pollo
Chombito/Blackie Chicken ($5.50) was a large, flattened chicken
breast that had been grilled and topped with a "Tropical Fruit
Sauce". The breast was tasty and moist, but the "Fruit
Sauce" consisted of nothing more than small chunks of cold
pineapple. Trout Frangelico ($9.50) was a large and moist filet
of trout, so mthered, however, with a ‘creamy sauce’
that was thick rather than creamy. The ‘Shrimps Flambee with
Frangelico’ topping the sauce were chewy and the entire dish
was served at room temperature. Someone in the kitchen needs to
learn how to manage several entré orders at once, so others
don’t sit and get cold. Or why not place the already prepared
meals in a hot holding oven? Meals served at room temperature is
The restaurant is located on Vía Veneto, accross from Hotel
Curry Tuna Sky Wrap ($4.50) turned out to be a very large empanada
style sandwich. While the flavor was good, it too was only just
warm and I had the feeling that its perfect shape and appearance
had more to do with a machine than a human hand. While I could be
wrong, "frozen" crossed my mind. This suspicion was supported
by the "onion rings" served with it...definitely out of
a bag. Why? How much effort does it take to dip fresh onion slices
in batter and fry them? That one step would lift the dish into another
Vegetable Pasta with Olive Oil ($7.50) was very good. The pasta
and vegetables were al dente, the olive oil just the perfect light
touch. Next up was the Chimi Churrasco ($9.50), a quite large portion
of meat that, while slightly tough as most carne nacional is, it
was nevertheless quite juicy and good.
for a good close, we ordered dessert, but the Cheesecake ($2.75)
was the only one that was very good. The Chocolate Cake ($2.50)
was very dry and the Flan ($2.50) was abandoned after one bite.
it is important to state that I always give a restaurant the benefit
of a doubt; perhaps the chef is having a terrible day, maybe there
are problems in the kitchen we customers are unaware of. This happens,
I know, because I have owned and operated restaurants in the past.
But La Esquina Van Gogh is a small, bright, gallery-like restaurant,
its walls covered in vibrant art, and Brazilian music playing in
the background, and with such visual appeal, it deserves a better
culinary effort than was served my party.