El Sabor Boliviano

Latin American
$$$$ ($14 and under)
A good spot for fans of the rustic cooking of Bolivia.
Mon-Fri 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat-Sun 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
(Fairfax County)
76 decibels (Must speak with raised voice)

Editorial Review

Fast Food, leisurely touch
Tastes of Peru and Bolivia in the 'burbs
By Tom Sietsema
March 6, 2011

"Village Chicken," says the sign outside the tiny storefront at the end of a small shopping strip in Springfield. A look around the pumpkin-orange dining room reinforces the theme. Every square inch of wall seems to sport something fowl, including a ceramic "Welcome to the coop" greeting.

One small problem. The kitchen hasn't specialized in chicken for almost a year now. Also, the ownership has changed, and with it the restaurant's name - at least on its menu. On the other hand, El Sabor Boliviano is pretty good news for fans of the rustic cooking of Bolivia, where potatoes and corn, and aji peppers and beef, dominate.

Owners Mario and Benita Valverde are husband and wife and share cooking duties at El Sabor. Their soups will make you want to hop a flight to Sucre or La Paz. Lightly creamy peanut soup is thick with soft slices of chicken, carrots, herbs and a garnish of french fries; pork soup finds lots of tender meat and large-kernel corn in a broth that gets its sass from aji peppers. Both entrees are served in portions that pack lunch with dinner, or vice versa.

There are saltenas parading on a carousel on the counter (behind which typically stands a sober-looking order-taker whose Spanish is better than her English). Resist the urge to order the turnovers; their braided pastry and meaty filling are too sweet. But a jerky lover should try the main dish known as charque: fried-to-order spicy shredded beef shored up with a farm market of hard-boiled eggs, a whole potato, puffy white corn and a slice of soft chalk-white cheese that the owners make themselves - a beef village, more or less.

Please see the accompanying review of Carbon Peruvian Chicken & Grille.