Dominican warmth in Rotterdam
TEXT: CHARLOTTE VAN HEK | PHOTO © LA BANDERA
The scent of worldly herbs waft towards you when stepping into La Bandera, while the warmth of the atmosphere overflows you. You could almost forget that you are not on an idyllic island in the Caribbean: you are in Rotterdam.
La Bandera offers authentic Dominican cuisine, combined with a tangible love for food and a portion of unmatched gastronomy. “Because of the country’s history of slavery and colonisation, the Dominican kitchen is a vibrant mix of cultures: a blend of African, Spanish, Portuguese and indigenous (Taínos) influences,” owner Irving Eleonora explains. “It is a unique yet somehow recognisable cuisine.”
La Bandera literally translates to ‘the flag’ and is the country’s national dish. The ingredients – meat, bean stew and rice – represent the colours of the national flag. It is an absolute classic on the menu, together with ‘moro’, a mixture of rice, beans and vegetables, usually served with stewed meat and a fresh salad. Eleonora’s dish of choice? “Moro con chivo [stewed goat’s meat] – delicious!”
Eleonora’s love for cooking started at a young age, with a grandmother and mother who were always busy in the kitchen. In 2013 he opened La Bandera, which in a short time conquered the hearts of many. “The Dutch are open to Dominican cuisine – they feel at home with the warmth and vivacious spirit that lives here. It is like entering a big Dominican living room, with music and atmosphere,” Eleonora enthuses.
“Dominicans are very proud of their culture and cuisine. They want to share it. That is exactly what La Bandera does. We put Dominican cuisine on the culinary map.”