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Dining Out: New heights in dining at Bolivian restaurant

NOSTALGIAS

85-09 Northern Blvd.

Jackson Heights

429-8113/533-9120

It's fitting that Nostalgias is in Jackson Heights: Nostalgias is a Bolivian restaurant. Bolivia is located in the heart of South America between Peru and Ecuador. La Paz, Bolivia's capital in the Andes, is the highest city in the world.

For the past three or four months, Nostalgias has had a new owner and a new name. It had been a Bolivian restaurant before Ricardo Gonzalez renovated it in great shades of green from deep green marble to apple green napkins fanned in water goblets. The cove ceiling is dramatically bathed in shocking green and vibrant purple light.

The satellite TV was showing Bolivian folk dancers when we were there early on a Saturday evening. The costumed women wore the shortest and fullest of skirts and they seemed to twirl perpetually as they danced the tinku and caporales to the sound of native music on the charrados and quena. Small TVs made it possible for every diner and every bar-goer to view every twirl.

On a Friday and Saturday night there's Karaoke at 10, and some in the crowd get up to dance on the hardwood floor.

The chef is Bolivian-born; he had chefed in three- and four-star restaurants. I must say, he produced a Bolivian meal, my first, that was terrific. We started off with a San Pedro with light pisco rum and just a hint of nutmeg. Loved it. And it doesn't sneak up on you. Marrauta, a delightful jelly-like yeast doughnut dish (baked, not fried, sans jelly) was served, one to each of us. An accompanying hot sauce can be enjoyed with it, with or without butter.

Our appetizer was an empanada-like baked turnover. Beef was an option but chicken (and our waitress said it was her favorite) is more unusual on the menu, so why not? It was a tasty choice.

Appetizer No. 2: I know that the idea of barbecued beef heart may not sound thrilling (I wondered what it would be like, I admit. Tough, chewy chunks?) But I can assure you, it was amazingly delicious. Thinly sliced, inch wide, folded ribbons of beef heart were strung on a metal skewer and grilled. It was ever so tender and utterly delicious with a ribbon of mustard sauce.

For a springlike touch we had asparagus soup. Light, creamy, pale green - lovely. The peanut soup, served only on Fridays and Saturdays, was a hearty, creamy, vegetable soup with a large potato (Bolivians know how to grow neat-tasting potatoes), carrots and peas.

My dining companion had grilled pork - a slice of fresh pork with sweet potatoes and french fries. I had a combination platter of chicken, fresh tongue (which again was unusually delicious) and shredded beef. The beef tasted as if it had been roasted, then shredded - so much tastier than the "rags" I've had previously. I loved it.

With this came rice, a huge half-potato, and wonderful tidbits of another new-to-me veggie. The sauce was luscious and just perfect for the rice and potato. Heaped on top of all were a thinly sliced onion and a fresh tomato - just the touch to make it sing.

Our desserts were tops: Cheesecake (not necessarily served in Bolivia), a very smooth and creamy one that was barely an inch high. The flan was a square, also an inch high, and it had a simple syrup "sauce" - no, not caramelized, but just the right touch to make it taste special.

I'm ready to go right back to Nostalgias. The TV is on from 11 a.m. on weekends. I surely want to see the twirly, girly folk dancing while I try for appetizers - the Bolivian version of head cheese (they seem to have a way with organ meats); avocado, chili, tomato and onion; white corn, onions, chili and cheese; cauliflower and cheese salad or a potato, carrot, green bean an celery salad. I certainly also want to try the baked corn pie.

Bolivia (in Jackson Heights), here I come, ready to reach new heights once again.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Excellent Bolivian cuisine. New ownership, new name, newly and attractively renovated. Satellite TV. Karaoke on Friday and Saturday evenings. Obliging, helpful servers.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Food: Bolivian cuisine

Setting: Large. Newly renovated

Servers: Obliging, helpful

Hours: Closed Mondays. Lunch and dinner, six days.

Reservations: Weekends

Parking: Street

Location: 85-09 Northern Blvd., between 85th and 86th streets

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: All major

Children: Own menu

Takeout: Yes

Off premise catering: Yes

Private parties: To 50

Smoking: Bar

Noise level: Can be noisy late weekends

Handicapped accessible: Yes

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