Polombia at Time Out Market (Chicago)

I’ve been meaning to write this review for a long time because it was one of my favorite finds from my work trips to Chicago last summer.   I love interesting fusion cuisine, like The Escobar Kitchen in Orlando’s Lake Nona, which expertly combines Puerto Rican food with sushi.  My wife and I used to love a Casselberry pizzeria called Del Dee’s, which served excellent New York-style pizzas along with Thai food (and one of the best Thai iced teas ever), due to the Italian husband and his Thai wife who owned and operated the restaurant.  Alas, it did not last.

Chicago is arguably a bigger food city than Orlando, and one of the few places that could honestly be called even more diverse.  That’s how we ended up with a restaurant as cool as Polombia (https://www.polombiachi.com/), a Polish-Colombian fusion restaurant located in the Time Out Market Chicago, a sprawling food hall with plenty of diverse dining options, from fresh pasta to barbecue, Greek to Indian, Southern to Korean, baked goods to bars.  The Time Out Market sounded like a great place to drag two work colleagues in a Lyft for lunch, and I already knew I had to try the most unique cuisine combo of all.  I definitely over-ordered at Polombia, a joint venture by visionary chefs Cynthia Orobio and Phillipe Sobon, but I wanted to try everything, so I regret nothing. 

I started with meatless emparogi ($12), a lovely quintet of empanada-pierogi hybrids.  These beautiful little pockets of dough were stuffed with potatoes, caramelized onions, chives, sofrito (a classic Latin seasoning blend of garlic, onions, sometimes tomatoes, olive oil, and other aromatic herbs, spices, and vegetables), and a swirl of aji crema, blending elements of a spicy Colombian hot sauce with cool cream to balance out all the acidic ingredients.  There was also a version of these emparogi with all the same fillings, plus short rib, but I held off on that, at least for this dish.

This is bigos, or hunter’s stew ($8), rich with shredded beef, Colombian chorizo sausage, and sauerkraut in a tomato-based stew.  I have loved bigos at Polish and Ukrainian restaurants, and this was a unique take that added Latin American flavors.  It lacked the sweet, tangy touch I remember from the bigos I savored at Veselka in New York City, but this was a very different version of the classic dish.  I think I might have also enjoyed it more in the winter than a particularly hot day in July, but don’t get me wrong, I liked it, and I’m very glad I tried it.   

I couldn’t stop myself from getting an order of two arepa-ski ($14), cornmeal patties topped with ricotta cheese blended with honey, shredded pickled beets and carrots, and the protein of our choice.  Those choices included mojo-roasted chicken, vegetarian lentils, and coffee-braised short rib, so this time I opted for the short rib.  The order came with aji sauce that reminded me of a thicker chimichurri, bringing some acid and spice to contrast against the richness of the meat and the sweet creaminess of the ricotta.  I was so excited to order all this food, I didn’t notice on the menu that I could pick two separate proteins, or else I would have.  But I have no regrets.  These were some of the more creative arepas I’ve ever tried, and the short rib was incredible.  I always love short ribs, and these were so well-seasoned with the coffee rub and braised to ideal tenderness, I didn’t think twice about missing out on the chicken and the lentils.

These were a beauty to behold:

And for dessert, I got kolaczki ($4), six light rolled pastries filled with guava and fig preserves and dusted with powdered sugar.  I might not have bothered with desserts, but I couldn’t turn down two of my favorite fruits for pastry fillings.  The sticky sweetness of the guava and fig worked so perfectly with the light, buttery pastries, and I was so glad to have those flavors to choose from.   

Since this is an Orlando-based food blog, I try to space out my out-of-town reviews, and I’ve been saving this one for a while.  Orlando only has one Polish restaurant that I haven’t been to yet, but my wife and I dearly loved another restaurant, Polonia, that closed several years ago.  That really introduced me to Polish flavors and dishes that I now love and crave and dream about.  Being from Miami, I’m also familiar with all kinds of Latin food, and very fond of it too.

I’m always excited to try chefs’ interesting takes on fusion cuisine, blending together ingredients and dishes and entire cultures, creating something unique and new that pays homage to the original inspirations and influences.  While Chicago certainly has some traditional Polish restaurants due to its large Polish population, I absolutely had to try Polombia while I was there.  I couldn’t schlep all the way up there and leave without trying it.  This was the exact kind of meal that I started this blog to write about, and I’m so glad I was able to visit and work my way through the beautiful, singular menu that Cynthia Orobio and Phillipe Sobon created.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: