Friday, May 18, 2007

Arepas! (Rellenas)

When you spend part of your time working in Queens, you learn all about arepas. Of course most of the restaurants around where I work are Columbian: so I always think of my arepas ass little fried cornmeal balls served as a side to whatever dish I was eating. Sort of like bread. So I was a bit surprised when the lovely wife and I were invited to go out to dinner with friends at CaraCas (91 E 7th Street, NY NY 10009 [East of First Ave. North Side] {212-228-5062}), a small East Village restaurant specializing in Venezuelan style arepas. It turns out that Venezuelans make larger flatter arepas than Columbians, and they like to split them in half and fill them with meat, cheese and other tasty stuff. Although you would think they would them call this an arepa sandwich they in fact call it arepas rellenas. If you want more arepa information, Wikipedia has a pretty good entry on the subject.

CaraCas is a small East Village style restaurant with friendly, but confused, East Village style service. They serve a variety of appetizers. We had the yoyos, deep fried plantain balls, with cheese which were fine, but nothing special. The guasacaca (Venezuelan guacamole) was quite tasty, and had homemade plantain chips to boot. Corn soup, a special, was tasty. There is an extensive empanada collection as well. Although perfectly tasty, I would have rather had another arepa.

The specialty of the house if the arepa rellena. There are 14 of them on the menu, plus specials, and if you don't see what you like you can ask for it. For those of you who do not eat meat, they have vegetarian. They will even feed vegans. But fortunately, they have a lot of stuff with meat. Most of it is good.

We clearly had to many arepas for four people. But our loss is your gain (and my waistlines, too), as we were able to sample a large number of arepas. Favorites included Los Muchachos (chorizo and cheese), La De Pernil (pork), and La Surena (chicken, chorizo and avocado). I thought the that La Jardinera (vegetables) was too sweet, as was La Pelua (beef and chedder cheese). There was a special (can't remember the name, but it was exceptional). There is beer, wine and a variety of South American juices. The arepas are 5 to 6 dollars each.

Am I schlepping back to the East Village to eat arepas. Honestly, no. The East Village is further from the Upper West Side than most of the outer boroughs. But arepas are cool, and the food was inexpensive and good. While not worth a journey, it is certainly worth a detour!

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