Thursday, September 4, 2008

Caracas Arepas Bar

Eating out has always been built into my personal budget. Some people splurge on clothes, others on spa treatment, and yet others on exotic vacations. While I do enjoy all of the above, my true guilty pleasure is food! However, to make me feel better about the amount that I really do spend on eating out each month, I am also all about the bargain. In fact, I embrace it. Caracas Arepas Bar is one of those restaurants where I can dine out and not think twice about it. Not only are the prices right, but the portions are too - and that is often a rare combination.

While I do love South American cuisine, Venezuelan food is fairly new to me. I had heard about "arepas" and always equated them to the Venezuelan version of a taco; but upon dining at Caracas, I soon learned that they offer much more than any simple tortilla can. According to their menu, an arepa is a "delicious (wheat-free) and highly nutritional meal - a Venezuelan specialty made out of corn flour... ideal for those seeking a healthier, inexpensive gastronomic experience. If you crave an original feast, try a homemade arepa stuffed with your choice of fillings, prepared with fresh ingredients and a delicious dash of love." Healthy, I am not so sure about. But, delicious and inexpensive, I can attest to.

As usual, my friends and I decided to sample as many things as possible and ended up sharing most items. The menu is made up of arepas, empanadas, sidekicks, and other dishes besides A and E. Based on the name of the restaurant alone, we put most of our trust into the arepas and decided to compliment them with a few sides. My favorite arepas were the De Pabellon (shredded beef, black beans, sweet plantains, and aged cheese) and the La Del Gato (guayan├ęs cheese, fried sweet plantains and avocado slices). I loved the contrast of a heavier meat choice next to the lighter vegetarian option. For the average girl, one meat filled arepa should normally be enough. But, that just means that I really do not associate with the typical girl - my two friends and I definitely could not settle on one a piece. I recommend 1.5 per person, leaving room for several sides. I must be a total fan of the way they prepare plantains in that kitchen since my favorite side was the dish of fried plantain slices with aged cheese. This also probably has to do with the fact that their "special sauce" is amazing! Pictured above, several bottles of spicy and thick tomato-based sauce sit on each table. It goes with just about anything on the menu - and I am certain that each table takes full advantage of all bottles by the end of the meal. I definitely like spice, but never want it to overpower a dish. These precious, plastic bottles hold the perfect amount of spice. Where was this sauce when I spent two weeks in the Dominican Republic in high school eating raw, boiled, and fried plantains for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Aside from my new found love for plantains, Caracas also introduced me to Tinto de Verano, a sparkling wine-based cocktail similar to sangria. While I do love the concept of Sangria, I am normally disappointed by the large pitchers of overly sweetened "wine punch" that most Latino restaurants serve. I should probably admit to being a Sangria snob. Although, every once in awhile, I am nicely surprised by a bartender that knows how to do it right. The Tinto de Verano is the perfect example. Not only do I love any form of sparkling wine, but the drink was hardly sweet - it was extremely refreshing and had a nice kick to it. Be careful, as with the rest of the items on the menu, these are well-priced too!

It is hard to believe that we left Caracas with full stomachs and our thirsts quenched for under $25 a person. If that does not make you smile, than the decor and waiters (both straight from Venezuela) surely will. In this tiny restaurant, walls are decorated with old photographs and statues- religious and cultural icons. Whether framed on the wall, serving you a dish or seated at a table next to you, all faces look upon you smiling. There is a unique vibe in the air - a great reminder that you can eat out in New York City and not feel guilty about it!

Caracas Arepas Bar
91 E 7th St (between 1st and A)
New York, NY 10009
Phone: (212) 228-5062

1 comment:

Alison said...

Great review, Hungry Roach! I love Caracas as well. Also check out their dulce de leche dessert - delicious dulce de leche smothered between two wafer-like cookies. Yum!