Friday, 4 May 2012

New York Tales : The Caracas Arepa Bar

After living in Colombia for nearly a year and being married to one for over 10 years, I have come to appreciate the arepa.
I have to admit it’s not my favourite food. I find it quite bland, but that may just be the Colombian arepa. Their food is rather bland anyhows.
But the wife loves them, if she could she would eat one probably twice a day everyday. Which when she is in Colombia she does.
So when I was checking out places to eat, I mentioned that there was an Arepa bar in the East Village. Big mistake. I said it as a joke, but it was then decided we were to eat there. Damn it, me and my big mouth.
The Caracas Arepa Bar is a lot smaller than I was expecting, it was also packed to the rafters. The line outside was pretty long as well and the wait was going to be at least 20 – 30 minutes. Damn we’d have to eat somewhere else.
So after the wife spoke to one of the waiters (in Spanish) to give our names, we were amazingly given a couple of seats at the bar. Damn it.
A couple of beers were ordered whilst we looked at the menu. The wife likes to take her time deciding what she is going to eat. The bar man had other ideas, he must have asked us every few minutes what we wanted to eat. Annoying.
An arepa is an arepa to me. Yes I know I’m a heathen. For some people arepa’s are the elixir of the gods. For me it’s just flour and water.
I’d seen they had a take on the Pabellon Criollo, the Venezuelan national dish. Shredded beef, rice, black beans, platanos and topped with a salty white cheese. Now this is my type of food.
I’ve eaten versions of this plate all other Central America and I love it. All it needed was a fried egg (Guatemala) and I would have been in heaven.
Te wife eventually choose a starter of croquettes, deep fried yucca cakes with chorizo and coriander.
The arepa of choice was La Mulata, a filling of grilled white cheese, jalapenos, black beans, red peppers and fried platanos. The bar man was a happy man now.
The croquettes were ok, nice flavour of the yucca and the chorizo. They were a tad on the small size, but it was a good starter.
My plate of Venezuela’s national dish was very good. The black beans had been cooked till they were soft and had been seasoned well. The platano was sweet and soft, the cheese was indeed salty but when eaten with the beans it was perfect. The beef was ok, a tad under seasoned and a bit bland, but was ok. The beans and platano gave this dish a lift.
I think this is a trait of arepas from Venezuela, they are stuffed. I’d heard about this heretic way of cooking arepas, but never seen it.
After they are cooked, the arepa is cut, some of the corn is scooped out and the filling piled in. It ends up looking like an arepa sandwich. Well I’ll be.
I was not allowed to taste this, so I cannot comment, but I was reliably informed that it was very good. Well if you take nom nom nom as being a good comment, then yes, it was good.
I managed to have a view straight into the kitchen, and those boys were constantly busy, slicing, filling those corn patties.
As soon as we said we had finished and our plates were taken away, we were asked if we wanted anything else. We didn’t and the bill was put instantly in front of us. I really do not like this form of in and out ideology from restaurateurs.
I like to sit, relax after a meal for 5 minutes and take it all in. But here, they want you in and out. Not good. Needless to say we didn’t leave a tip.
All in all the food was good, the décor nice and cosy with some nice artwork on the wall. Just bad service. Shame. I actually wish’d we eaten at their To Go place next door and had the same, at least we would have been expecting to leave straight away.

Caracas Arepa Bar on Urbanspoon


Hungry said...

I'm sure I had stuffed arepas on a cold bogota morning - sliced with a cracked egg and some kind of sausage inside and deep fried.

But i do agree, they are a bit 'meh' overall. The kind of food you have to grow up with to truly love.

Mzungu said...

Hungry - Yeah I think if you grew up with arepas then they are with you for life. As a new experience they are ok once in a while. I know Colombians who eat them everyday.