An arepa is a dense, corn dough muffin that’s opened and stuffed with cheese, fish, meat – anything that takes your fancy. I first tried one aged 18, living in Venezuela. My second experience came ten years later, this time in NYC.
Caracas was the restaurant feeding us yummy arepas. We had to wait an hour, but eventually got a seat in the bustling Manhattan branch, despite feeling tempted by the ‘food to go’ window.
Inside we found a cosy, warmly lit space, decorated with statues of Mary Magdalene and ornate crosses. On wooden tables sat menus listing the 12 arepas available, along with nine ‘Sidekicks’, salads, full sized ‘plates’ and desserts.
Now if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about America, it’s to order less than what’s recommended to you. The waiter told us we needed four arepas between two, so we went for three plus Guasacaca & Chips ($6.25) – delicious guacamole that was scooped up with crisp plantain.
The suitably bland patties were the perfect vessel for the meaty fillings – De Pabellon ($7.5) with shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains, De Pollo ($6.5), a combination of grilled chicken breast, caramelised onions and cheddar cheese and last, but by no means least, Vista al Mar ($8) – pan seared tilapia with garlic infused oil, pickled onions, radish and a parsley, cilantro and oregano spread.
Is your mouth watering yet? It should be as each one was packed with wonderful flavours, especially Vista al Mar, which reminded me of snacks on the shore in Choroni, Venezuela.
There’s no way I can wait another ten years before biting into an arepa. If London doesn’t come up with the goods, I’ll just have to make my own…or take another trip to the Big Apple.
Caracas, 93 1/2 E 7th St., NY 10009