Durham: Gran Sabana
I went to Gran Sabana last night, the Latino/Carribean place in the strip mall on the SE corner of 55/54. I had the Pabellon (ropa vieja-shredded beef- with a fried egg on top). It was a little stringy (isn't ropa vieja always a bit stringy), but good flavor and I loved the egg on top. The salsa was spicy and make sure you ask for the salsa verde, too, it has a great mild, lime flavor.
My friends ordered arepas (kind of a thick corn-based pita) which were good. Lots of other things looked tasty.
I'd like to try out the Jamaican place next door, and Antojitos, the El Salvadorean (?they have Pupusas which I think of as traditionally El Salvadorean) place next to that. I'd love to hear reviews if anyone has been.
Hadn't heard about this place. Thanks for the heads up. You know that little area is turning out to be an interesting dining destination. This Latin place, I've heard good things about Jamaica Jamaica, and a little further down is an authentic Bengali sweet shop. I know it's authentic because their family has a sweet shop in Calcutta, India where I'm from. As mentioned in the other thread, Lewis BBQ is also around there.
I'd like to give Gran Sabana another plug. Just about a year ago, it changed names to Los Paisanos (although their web address has not changed: still http://www.gransabana.dine.com). It still has the same Venezuelan food, but they have added many Mexican items to the menu. Essentially, this is a place I recommend for one dish: the pabellón criollo, which is a Venezuelan version of the Cuban shredded beef dish ropa vieja. However, the pabellón has a bit more flavor (not heat, just flavor) than most ropa vieja. As the previous poster mentioned, the dish is served with a fried egg on top, and comes with nicely flavored black beans, white rice, and fried plantains. The plantains are as good, if not better, than most that you would find in Miami. The dish also comes with arepas, a sort of flat cornmeal cake. Los Paisanos also has two house-made salsas: a spicy red sauce, and a cilantro-based green sauce. Both are great for dipping the arepas in, not to mention on top of the pabellón. Los Paisanos also makes a really nice flan -- very smooth, not too eggy-- but about half the time they don't have it.
This restaurant is always virtually empty. It's a shame, as I'm afraid they are on the verge of going under. In part, this is probably because the atmosphere in the place is pretty crappy. It's clean, but it has an almost institutional feel to it. I invariably order takeout from them.
In sum, this is a pretty unique restaurant for this area. Most of the other dishes they serve are not standouts, but the paballón is definitely a winner. I hope Chowhounds will help them stay in business!
Los Paisanos runs a buffet at lunch as well. No, there's not much in the way of atmosphere. A little remodel of the dining room would go a long way. And not everything they put out there is great, but there are a couple of star items on the steam table.
The plaintains, as you mentioned, are delicious. Fully done, not burnt, and carmelized on the exterior to the point where you'd swear they'd been rolled in brown sugar before hitting the heat.
The main event though is the roasted pork. Very moist, nicely seasoned and just redolent of sweet pork flavor. My plate usually consists of this over rice and black beans with a side of plaintains. They also have big ketchup-style squeeze bottles of a nice hot salsa that's right in tune with the pork. Good stuff.
I'll have to give them a try at dinner time.