Review: Arepas Cafe

Review: Arepas Cafe

Arepa Mami: shredded pork, cheese, and avocado.

Arepas Cafe in Astoria has long been on my list of cheap eats places to check out. I finally trekked down there about two weeks ago and must admit that I loved it.

Arepas are Venezuelan corn cakes, often filled with melted, oozing cheese. This restaurant has a long list of arepas, from savory ones stuffed with shark meat to sweet ones with fried platains.

Between three of us, we tried the national dish of Venezuela, el pabellon, served with rice and black beans with cheese and sweet plantains. Arepas Cafe has a few different kinds of pabellon, but the Criollo, shredded and spiced beef ($11), is the traditional one.

El pabellon Criollo.

Aside from having arepas as street food, this was my first experience with Venezuelan cuisine. To me, it was homey and comforting because there are more soothing flavors and textures than overly assertive ones. For example and as a point of contrast, I would say that certain Thai dishes, like Tom Yum Gai, have more assertive and powerful flavors than comforting ones, whereas the grilled corn cakes and mellow white cheese of the Venezuelan food was much softer on the palette.

The arepas at Arepas Café are filling, but not jumbo American sized, which is great because the staff will recommend you eat two. I tried three, which were all fantastic: mami (pork, cheese, avocado, $6.50); domino (black beans and cheese; $3.75); Guyanesa tropical, which my friend ordered (Guyanes cheese, sweet plantain, avocado, $6).

Two sauces were set on the table, one a creamy cilantro with a just a zing of a back note, and one that was spicy. Both were enjoyable and good for dabbling -- not dousing, as I didn't want to overpower the food.

Arepa Domino: black beans and cheese.

Arepas Cafe
33-07 36th Ave.
Astoria, NY