Llajtaymanta is a small pocket of rich Bolivian culture, hidden in the Graham Center strip mall of Falls Church.
The name itself brings to mind images of the culture’s unique mixture of Spanish and Incan flavors in its cuisine, and although the restaurant’s name may seem unpronounceable, its savory dishes and live Andean music keep enticing newcomers, as well as the regulars.
On a Saturday night, Llajtaymanta packs in its guests – diners, dancers, and the evening’s musicians. Inside the plainly furnished the restaurant it is clear the people are truly defines the restaurant. The Andean quartet this particular evening, “El Sol de los Andes,” moves guests with its mountain folk music, playing guitars, wooden flutes and drums under the high tone of the band’s vocalist. The band adds to the restaurant’s comfortable atmosphere, for those who want a taste of Bolivian tradition, and for others, a chance to dance the night away after a great meal.
Spanish is the language of choice at Llajtaymanta, but the staff has English menus on hand for those who may not be as fluent. An English-speaking guest can see the prominence of meat in the Bolivian diet. Llajtaymanta’s menu in particular offered a variety, from conejo, or rabbit meat, to duck, beef and specialties like beef tongue and pickled pork rolls.
My choice was Llajtaymanta’s lapping ($12.50), a thin slice of sizzling fried beef brisket served with a miniature mountain of pico de gallo as well as large portions of boiled potatoes, large, chewy fava beans and corn. Overall, the meal was quite tasty. The corn came with cob intact, along with oversized, pasty kernels. The pico de gallo was delightfully zesty – crisp, chopped tomatoes mixed with crumbled feta cheese and raw onions that zapped the taste buds. It was a perfect complement to the fried steak meat.
The menu is relatively affordable, with most entrées under $12 – it’s no surprise that this restaurant earned the Northern Virginia Magazine 2008 Best Bargain Restaurant award. Llajtaymanta gives you every penny’s worth in quantity and quality, but don’t be mistaken, the restaurant’s offerings are more extraordinary than the beef brisket.
Llajtaymanta has several homemade soups on the menu, including Changa de Gallina, a Bolivian style chicken soup; Sopa de Mani, a traditional Bolivian peanut soup with chicken and beef and Fricaze, a port short rib soup with potato and white hominy, among others.
Lambredo de Conejo is a rabbit stew, and past some bones, this dish is another trademark of Llajtaymanta. The breaded and fried rabbit is immersed in a rich tomato and wine sauce, and served along with rice potato and salad.
Among the other traditional entrées listed on the bill of fare is the Cordorniz, which is a roasted Cornish game hen, served with rice, potato and lima beans, and the Falso Conejo, which translates to “false rabbit,” is a thinly sliced, breaded and fried beef steak in a rich tomato and wine sauce, served like most entrées, with a side of rice, potato and salad.
The Empanadas – stuffed pastries – are somewhat like a dessert. Empanada Huistupicu is stuffed with Bolivian style cheese, and has spicy or mild options. The Empanada Puca Capa is a larger cheese-stuffed empanada that is extra spicy, but don’t fret, its alternative, the Empanada De Queso, is listed directly underneath, and comes with a large mild cheese filling.
At Llajtaymanta, one can experience the slice of home the restaurant offers to local Bolivians, as well as insight into the Bolivian culture and traditions it brings to newcomers.
7236 Arlington Blvd.
Falls Church, VA 22042
Open Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday 10 a.m. – midnight