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Caracas Arepa Bar: Fun, Tasty, and Cramped

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Caracas Arepa Bar: Fun, Tasty, and Cramped

shivohum | Jan 18, 2008 01:00 PM

Caracas Arepa Bar is one of the restaurant incarnations of the stereotypical Manhattan apartment: it's a closet, but it's charming and it's in a great location. CAB is a Venezeulan restaurant located in the East Village, and when we got there it was packed with a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings, snacking on delicious looking and smelling latin food of all shapes and sizes. A couple of waiters in colorful, bohemian attire (e.g. giant sneakers with different colored laces) managed the crowds. Tables are stacked about as close together as you can get while still being stacked horizontally instead of vertically. The place sports a metallic ceiling, one wall with a mural of a peasant girl, and another with a tiny shrine to the Virgin Mary and what seems like important historical Venezuelan historical figures.

The menu features lots of interesting items of Venezeulan cuisine, with a heavy focus on South American staples: plaintains, corn, different kinds of cheeses. My vegetarian palate found plenty of choice.

We ended up ordering some "yoyos" - deep fried balls of sweet plaintain limned on the inside with a mild white cheese. They looked entertainingly dark and mysterious, and were served with an equally mysterious dark sauce that could have been soy sauce, but was actually a sweet, molasses-based concoction.

I also ordered a cheese arepa, and, in a stunning display of boring choice, also ordered an empanada version of the same thing. The arepa was essentially a corn tortilla pocket filled on the inside with this cheese. It disappointed me slightly that neither the cheese nor the tortilla was not hot, but this might have been intentional. In any case, the cheese was very flavorful and almost a little too juicy: as I bit into it, squirts of cheese-juice shot out of the sandwich and onto my face, the table, or anywhere else it would be annoying for it to go. The tortilla itself was hearty and fresh too.

The empanada, which was just a deep-fried arepa, was also satisfying, although less so. Maybe it's because I'm used to flour-based empanadas, but the corn just seemed a touch too chewy and heavy for my taste. I still liked it, but it just didn't seem quite as wonderful as the arepa. I love melted cheese, but even the melted cheese didn't taste as good as it should have, somehow. I think the arepa was clearly the superior dish.

Dessert was a thick chocolate mousse with cookies layered in between. The chocolate itself was rich and delightful, but the cookies in between were a little disappointing. They should have added crunch and texture, but they became soggy in the mousse and added little or nothing.

Overall, this is a beautiful, charming little restaurant with excellent food and prices. You should be prepared for a wait, but that, like the lack of space, is part of the charm.

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