Located at The Star Vista amid a myriad of restaurants that have been sparking off interest in the suddenly booming Buona Vista area, La Barra boasts the title of Singapore’s only Colombian street food concept. The tiny alfresco joint – sandwiched between Señor Taco and Shiraz Lazziz on the outer front of the second floor (you’ll need to go up the escalator on the right) – offers authentic South American cuisine courtesy of Colombian co-founder Patricia Klammers and vibrant, colourful décor designed by a Singapore-based Colombian architect. Feisty, upbeat music plays in the background, as well as on a TV screen showing Shakira and other Colombian acts.
The service is breezy and friendly – specials are announced and explained (with earnest recommendations) and the food arrives within minutes of ordering, though the restaurant has been nearly empty each time we’ve seen it. The menu’s simple, with two pages of food and two pages of drinks – of particular note are the arepas, a round South American flatbread that’s made from cornmeal (and 100 per cent gluten-free). They’re served like an open-faced taco, with the fillings piled on top – choose from options like chicken with creamy avocado ($11) or the paisa (cheese and chorizo, $11.50). Compared to tacos, the slightly thicker cornmeal arepas come off a bit dry – we recommend ample use of some of the sauces provided, particularly the hogao sauce that comes with the paisa, which was described by our server as a tomato and onion-based ‘fried salsa’ – though it’s less of an issue with the recommended arepa burger ($18), a juicy beef patty between two arepas and crispy chunks of melt-in-your-mouth fried tapioca on the side.
We also enjoyed the empanadas ($10) – again, made out of corn flour and stuffed with a choice of chicken, beef or cheese. They’re similar to curry puffs and come with sauces like the herb-based aji sauce, a slightly bland green puréed sauce of avocados and a creamy, sweet pink blend. We washed it all down with refreshing pura shakes, which were a mix of ice blended water or milk (add $1) with exotic fruits like the lulo ($6.50) – an imported Colombian fruit with a tart citrus flavour – and passion fruit ($6.50).
There are also a few notable Colombia-imported brews ($12/bottle) such as Aguila, Club Colombia and Redd’s, plus Aguardiente (a liqueur derived from sugar cane, also known as Colombian ‘fire water’, $8/shot), and organic Juan Valdez signature Colombian coffee ($3.50-$4.50).
All in all, if you’re new to Colombian fare, you’ll want to stop by before the novelty wears out. But keep in mind that it’ll take a few arepas (similar to a portion of two smaller tacos at Señor Taco next door or the single taco servings at Lucha Loco) to get you full. Benita Lee