Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hola Arepa!

My brother was in town for the weekend, and we debated for almost an hour where we should have lunch last Saturday. After flipping through a handful of top sandwich lists from NYMag, Serious Eats, etc., we finally decided on Caracas Arepa Bar. I’ve walked by this dozens of times on the way to other restaurants in the East Village, and we were excited to finally try it.

We walked into a packed, tiny space with a few tables waiting ahead of us. Luckily, there were 2 open seats at a side bar area that I guess no one else was interested in. After seeing how cramped everyone was at their tables, we both agreed that this worked out very well.

Both the hostess and the server were so nice, and patiently walked us through the menu and provided some great recommendations. We asked the server how the guasacaca (Venezuelan style guacamole) & chips were, and her face spoke volumes. Without totally knocking the guac, she instead recommended we try the tostones mochimeros. Guac can be good, but never really anything so special. So we were happy to get a recommendation from someone who a) knows the menu, and b) is from Venezuela.

The tostones came out and our jaws immediately dropped. These huge slices of fried green plantains were topped with a green “mojito” mayo, a squeeze of lemon, and crumbly white cheese. 

The edges were perfectly crispy, and the center was just a little soft, so it was a great combo of textures. The mojito mayo had a nice light flavor that didn’t mask the plantain taste at all. And the cheese was light too, and had a great slightly salty flavor. The bites that had no mayo on it were perfect for dousing in Caracas’s secret hot sauce. The only info we could get from the hostess (and was probably more than she was supposed to say!) was that it had “like 1000 different peppers in it” and was made with passion fruit. Sweet and spicy…and so damn good.

The arepa I ordered was La Mulata. This was made of grilled white cheese with jalapenos, sautéed red peppers, fried sweet plantains, and black beans. . The saltiness of the cheese was the perfect complement to the sweet plantains. It was SO good on its own. But, I, of course, managed to squeeze the hot sauce onto almost every bite, which made it taste even better. It was a total mess to eat, but it was worth every extra napkin I used.

My brother ordered Los Muchachos, which came highly recommended by the server. This arepa came with grilled chorizo, spicy white cheese, jalapenos, and sautéed peppers. He said the chorizo was really flavorful, and hard to go wrong with a chunk of grilled cheese.

Two doors down (with Luke’s Lobster squeezed in between) is Caracas To-Go. They have a few (even smaller) tables, but I think the sit-down restaurant makes for a better atmosphere. Since that was my only arepa experience, I am very eager to go back and try other varieties. They also feature a brunch menu with arepas featuring eggs. Definitely may have to give that a whirl!

Caracas Arepa Bar
93 East 7th Street
b/t 1st Avenue & Avenue A
website
Twitter
Menu Pages listing

No comments: