Take One: Although typically we’d like to give a spot a few tries before writing our review, budgets are tight (hi, Macrisis!) and we don’t ask for freebies. ‘Take One’ will highlight the dishes that left our resident food writer, Kevin Vaughn, wanting seconds.
An arepa is basically a sandwich. Across the Middle East, an arepa is a pita, and in Mexico it is a gordita. If we really want to be generous, an arepa is a dumpling—found in nearly every culture across the globe. The difference, of course, is that whereas the best dumplings are those that don’t tear, the greatest arepas are the ones that stretch and hulk the highest without crumbling apart in just a few bites.
In Venezuela, arepas are eaten morning, noon and night. They are consumed alone, torn off into pieces like a piece of bread, or stabbed down the middle and stuffed tall with bright green avocado and stains of red and orange sauces that mimic the tropical Caribbean lands they were born in.
There are a fair amount of arepas in Buenos Aires. Venezuelan restaurants are amongst the most numerous in the city and nearly all of them offer identical menus—oddly enough, making it a tricky thing to order. Each and every one has their specialties and menu fillers. Panachef has one of my favorite reina pepiadas; its pliable white dough curls over to fit what feels like an entire chicken and avocado cut like dense cement blocks. In a Microcentro basement, Guaica’s selection numbers more than two dozen, although the pabellón, normally a dish all its own made of shredded beef, beans and copper colored plantains, is the clear winner. And at Palermo’s Kombinaciones, ingredients like soft-boiled eggs and slow-roasted pork belly are the menu’s central focus.
And then there is Mestizos. Chef Juan Manuel León is the brains behind Monzu, a little pizzeria on the cuffs of Palermo and Almagro that turned out bizarre pizza toppings— potato and panceta and octopus tinted pizza dough. While Monzu undergoes some re-adjusting—a move to Puerto Madryn and a new location soon in Palermo Soho—León and his team have brought the same energy for casually weird flavors to the arepa.
To start try La Mestiza, which is stacked like a trashy Argentine-Venezuelan wedding. Grilled chicken and generous cuts of avocado pay homage to the reina pepiada and are pummeled by rough slices of chorizo and a peppery chimichurri sauce. La Llanera comes with thick slices of steak seasoned like a Peruvian salteado, with sweet notes of soy sauce and sugar that combine with a fatty fried egg, candy colored sweet red onions, and dense and salty llanero cheese.
Our visit was brief but promising. And the menu of sweet pastelitos, patacones, soup and tequeños will have us checking back in soon.
Address: Nicaragua 4424, Palermo Soho
Open: Monday through Thursday 5pm to midnight; Friday noon to 2am; Saturday 9am to 2am; Sunday 9am to midnight
Feature photo credit: Evaly Contreras