Three Venezuelan Restaurants in Five Days
Three Venezuelan Meals. One article. 120 hours. This was the challenge I gladly accepted from my editor Vivi. The Feria de Gastronomía – Sabores Venezolanos is this Sunday (July 12th) and it only felt appropriate to adequately preface a massive inhaling of arepas. cachapas, pastelitos and other (insert favorite corn thing here) by sharing our (new) favorite spots. Yep, this was all for you guys.
Venezuela is becoming a new gastronomic force in Capital – restaurants big and small, arepas made-to-order and delivered to your door, and small catering companies for your next despedida are popping up all over the place. It makes sense. Last year, Venezuelans held the title of largest influx of [legal] immigrants in Argentina – 10 gaining residency a day to be exact. And they’re bringing their food with them.
Saturday night, dinner time
La Abuela – a private residence (Agrelo and Av. Boedo) not quite considered part of Boedo, but we’re going to call it that anyway
La Abuela was the tip of this giant delicious iceberg. I saw a flyer for a three course Venezuelan meal in an informal closed door and stopped everything. It was our gracious host and cook Mali, a Buenos Aires transplant by way of Caracas, who told me about the upcoming feria. Mali lives and cooks in her small Boedo apartment with her partner Jonathan, where they dish up traditional Venezuelan comfort foods abuela-style. The space is intimate; the front door opened to a little dining room with a table fit for just four people. Come with some friends, or come alone and we’ll set up the throne for you, Mali told me. Her warmth made the initial awkwardness that comes with many supper clubs dissolve immediately. We started the night with cachapas, which is similar to a flap jack (the American variety, not to be confused with the British granola bar) folded over and oozing with melted cheese. The appetizer was followed by a plate of asado negro, round steak braised in red wine and tomato until it fell apart. The sauce was rich and homey, and I was sure to carefully soak it all up with as much scalloped potato and meat as I could. The dessert was a corn cake and homemade cinnamon and coconut cream. Mali and Jonathan arrange dinners in their home, delivery, and will even make a meal in the comfort of your little porteño kitchen whenever strikes your fancy.
Sunday, wanted to go to Panachef. Lazy Sunday won.
Monday, don’t ask.
Tuesday afternoon, early enough to still be considered “lunch”
Panachef – Sanchez de Bustamante 1470, as far as I’m concerned this is “Palmagro”, Palermo with an Almagro attitude. The municipality, however, is telling me it’s actually Recoleta
I’d heard wonderful things about the arepas at Panachef. I arrived excited, and honestly, a little hangry. I look at the menu and a sense of unease washes over me. Wraps? Sandwiches? Ok, you guys got some bbq pork on the menu and that’s great, but what is actually happening?! Umm, are the sandwiches actually arepas? I asked prepared for judgement. No. Sandwiches are sandwiches. Arepas are arepas, and we make them for the special ones that ask. Crisis averted. I don’t have to back out of the room slowly and run. And I also just discovered the secret menu? Vegetarian, or reina pepiada, they ask. I roar LA REINA maybe a bit too loudly for everyone’s comfort before they can even begin to explain to me what’s in it. I knew what was in it, and I also knew I wasn’t there for a vegetarian arepa. The reina pepiada is like chicken salad, but instead of gooping a bunch of mayonnaise (non-sequitor, I still have nightmares after seeing the preparation of a particularly goopy ensalada rusa) onto your chicken they mix said mayonnaise with avocado and lime and stuff it to the brim into a delicate white corn arepa. And although I have no idea what this lady is the Queen of (besides a magical land of chicken and palta), Panachef’s arepa lived up to the name. And that hot sauce – a combo of ginger, tomato, chile pepper and other sorcery – was the perfect fit for an otherwise light filling.
Wednesday evening, post-workout give me food now
Arepera Buenos Aires, Estado de Israel 4316, technically on the Almagro side of the street but we’ll go with Villa Crespo here
Yes, Arepera is host to an enormous selection of arepas which include traditional fillings like the aforementioned reina pepiada, carne mechada and pabellon as well as more bizarre flavors like pastrami and capresse, but how could I say no to a sandwich in which the bread is actually fried plantains? Can you give me a good answer to that question? Can you? The patacon con carne mechada was a beautiful love song to my hungry self. The sandwich was graced with shredded beef that had been slow-cooked to its full juicy potential and topped with lettuce, tomato and cheese and thrown between two fried plantain biscuits. My dining partner offered me some of his arepa, just to try, you know, but I knew his angle – he liked the patacon also. I doused everything in some damn hot hot sauce and a green bell pepper and garlic salsa and enjoyed each bite between sips of passionfruit juice.
With so many new options, we’re bound to have missed something. Let us know your favorite Venezuelan restaurant in the comments.
The Feria de Gastronomía – Sabores Venezolanos is this Sunday in Palermo from noon to 7pm at the Galpón Milagros – Gorriti 5417. Get your arepa on.