More than six months ago I had placed Caracas Arepa Bar on my list of places I wanted to eat, but for some reason or another I never got around to it. Today was my only day off and adventuring to Arepa Bar was definitely the plan. I put on a thrift store bought brown suede blazer and a pencil floral black and white skirt and was out the door. The weather was perfect. It was cloudy with no signs of rain but the air gave an impression the day was to be magical. A day where mustard colored leaves sprinkled like snowflakes above your head and the cool breeze brushed your skin gently in every couple steps. Early afternoon it was, and the streets of Brooklyn were calm and serene.
Before this delightful day started, I decided to research the history of the arepa. I discovered an arepa is basically a corn pancake that is usually eaten with meats, eggs, or cheese but can be paired with a lot of food such as a potato. Arepas can also be sweetened and become the base element of a dessert. The indigenous people of Venezuela and Columbia actually adapted the name and have allowed the arepa to be an essential cake in both cultures. In my culture, we also call this type of corn cake arepa but sometimes use the spanish term “bollos” and in using this term instead of frying the batter we boil the batter and eat them as a side for a seared steak. Inspired by my little Google research on arepas, I called my mother and asked her how the corn cake was significant in her childhood. She goes into a detailed memory of family gathering’s with big pots of arepa for all the neighborhood. The process took about a day or two to make because first you scraped the fresh corn and then placed the seeds outside to dry in the hot sun. When they became dry you then intensively crushed them until they became a grainy mixture. Afterwards you sift the mixture and, voila, you have homemade corn flour. My mother then continued on with the memory of placing the flour in a large pot on the front porch over an open fire with hot coal. The flour would then be mixed with natural cow milk, butter, sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Once ready it would quickly be flipped over and all the neighborhood friends would enjoy a slice.
With my mothers memory in mind Caracas Arepa Bar was definitely a quick getaway into my Hispanic background. Waiting for your menu you notice the warmth of the restaurant and the salsa music playing in the background—both setting the mood for this Venezuelan adventure. While looking over the menu, the waitress suggests the lunch special from noon-4pm of an arepa and a soup or salad for just $8.50! I said, “I’ll take it” and ordered the arepa the restaurant is well known for — “De Pabillon” — and a salad as a starter. The salad arrived and I started munching. A mixed green salad with heirloom tomatoes lightly hand tossed in balsamic vinaigrette then plated on a clay bowl. The salad being just the right starter with its perfect lightness keeping you awaiting the New York Times reviewed arepa. The arepa arrives 10 minutes later and I immediately noticed the fork and knife provided was not needed. It was definitely finger food and not just something you can grasp with one hand. You need both hands to hold all it packed. With the first bite you hear the crispness on the edges of the arepa as you bite into beef, cheese, beans, and sweet plantains. The juices from the beef start dripping onto the plate with every bite (you know something’s good when its oozing out). The sweetness of the fried sweet plantains reminded me of my childhood. It played so well with the hearty beef and beans allowing it to truly show off the significance of this Venezuelan treat. A couple of mouthfuls and the arepa is gone and you’re craving dessert because how can you not desire a coconut tres leches or a moussesillo de parchita? I of course went with the mouseesillo de parchita because it’s a mousse that met a flan, went to a party and invited one of my most favorite things, passion fruit, into the mix. However, unfortunately the moussesillo didn’t meet my expectations. It was a bold dessert that went wrong. The passion fruit advertised didn’t shine through and the flavor overall of the dessert wasn’t pleasing. Your left just wanting to savor the blueberry sauce that the dessert is plated with. Overall, Caracas Arepa Bar showcased the Venezuelan culture to an American audience attractively. I wouldn’t hesitate twice to go for lunch again.
Caracas Arepa Bar291 Grand st. (between Havemeyer st and Roebling st) Brooklyn, NY 11211