UIB Eats: Caracas Arepa Bar

Greetings and happy spring (although it still feels like winter outside! Mother nature is so bipolar *rolls eyes*)!

Jumping right into it, today’s post is about a new restaurant that I visited yesterday after a trip to one of my favorite thrift shops, Crossroads Trading Co. (a thrift shop that I’ve written about before: https://unicorninbrooklyn.com/2014/05/10/see-you-at-the-crossroads/), located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

Caracas Arepa Bar (the Williamsburg, BK location) http://www.caracasarepabar.com/brooklyn.php, is a spacious Venezuelan eatery with a nice sized dining room and a colorful patio (that was too damn cold to enjoy yesterday afternoon) that serves – you guessed, Arepas!

If you’re like me, you may be wondering what the hell an arepa even is (I had no clue before I walked into the restaurant).  According to the Caracas website, an arepa is a “dense yet spongy corn-flour rounds, pitalike pockets, corn muffins, cake-swaddled mélange, white corn cakes, Latin sloppy Joe, sandwiches of a flat cornmeal patty, soft and smooth within, golden crispiness, tasty treats, burrito-killer, panini-killer, wheat-free, gluten-free crisp on the outside, steamy-soft in the middle…”

My dining companion and I visited Caracas for lunch (around 2:30 pm) and were seated (in the middle of the dining room) by the hostess immediately.   It was relatively empty; there was a small group of about 8 and a couple having lunch in the back of the dining room.  With such a small group of patrons you would think that our service would be stellar, wrong.  I found our service to be subpar and our tip reflected this.  Stay tuned, I’ll elaborate.

Before reviewing the menu we asked the hostess for water and lemon and were given a transparent green bottle (of water) and two glasses – no lemon.  We were told that our server would bring this to us once he took our order.  Within minutes our server (who  never mentioned his name) arrived to take our respective orders.  We ordered the arepa lunch special (arepas served with either house salad or soup): Playa Deluxe and La Surena arepas with salad.  Our lemon slices (two slices in a shot glass) were bought to us immediately.  So far, so good.

My refreshing salad (mixed greens, heart of palms, baby grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, with balsamic vinaigrette) hit the spot!  It was a nice sized portion with the perfect amount of dressing – not too much, not too little.

House Salad

Shortly after we finished our salads our arepas arrived and I was caught off guard.  As previously mentioned I had no idea what an arepa was.  I envisioned a flat quesadilla like entree, instead I was presented (and pleasantly surprised) by the following:

Playa Deluxe – Pan seared tilapia, with garlic infused oil, sauteed mushrooms, avocado slices, pickled onions, and homemade herb mayo.
La Surena – Grilled chicken, hearty chorizo, avocado slices, and spicy chimi-chirri sauce

After trying my very first arepa (the Playa Deluxe) I would define it as a hot, buttery, cornmeal pita pockets filled with hearty, well seasoned flavorful food – it was delicious!  The fish in my arepa was lightly seasoned, but the sauteed mushrooms, onions, and mayo added a nice complimenting taste.

Midway through eating the arepa I found it to be somewhat dry and requested additional herb mayonnaise (which took my waiter more than five minutes to bring).  In the interim I sampled some of the sauce that my dining companion requested (and was bought immediately), the Caracas house mango sauce (a sauce that is usually on each table, but was not placed on ours for some odd reason).  While I found it to be a nice compliment to my arepa, I still preferred the taste of the mayo, so I waited for it to arrive before finishing my entree.

While waiting for my herb mayo I also requested a refill of water and additional lemon slices.  The water was bought over after a long wait (more than five minutes) and we never received the lemon slices.

Since the food was so good, I ignored the slow service and ordered dessert.  I had a hankering for something sweet and the options were very appetizing.  I’m a sucker for anything with passion fruit, so I tried the Moussesillo de Parchita, a mixture of mousse and flan topped with passion fruit sauce, fresh blueberries, and mint.

Moussesillo de Parchita

This dessert was as delicious as it sounds.  I would liken the consistency of it to a slice of thick NY cheesecake.  While I found the dessert to be very good, I also found it to be a bit dry, so I requested additional passion fruit sauce.  To my dismay, it took several minutes for the sauce to be bought over – not by my server, but by the hostess.

Come to think of it, every time either my dining companion or I requested anything (sauce, water, lemon, etc.) my server and the hostess seemed to be preoccupied with private conversations and whatever was on the hostess’ laptop.  We had to call our server more than once to get his attention and I found this to be incredibly annoying.

My dining companion opted for the more popular Latin dessert, Tres Leche (with a twist).   Caracas’ tres leche is a coconut sponge cake soaked in three milks (condensed, evaporated, and coconut).

Coconut Tres Leche

I sampled the Coconut Tres Leche cake and found it to be extremely dry.  While the sponge cake was surrounded by a medley of milks and coconut flakes, the cake didn’t really absorb much of the liquid.  Halfway through the dessert my dining companion shared her dismay for the sweet treat as it wasn’t as moist as she would have liked it to be.

All and all, my experience at Caracas Arepa Bar was a 6, on a scale from 1 – 10.  The arepas were delicious, my dessert was good, the prices were very reasonable, and the portions were great, but the service was subpar.  I gave our server a monetary tip as well as a written one: “The tip reflects the service we received today, subpar.  While the food was great, the service wasn’t”.

Surprisingly enough, I would dine here again because the food was that good.  I’m going to chalk my first experience at the Caracas Arepa Bar (in Williamsburg) up to the wait staff having an off day.  I will visit again in the near future (when it warms so I can dine outside on the patio).  Should I receive less than stellar service on my second go around, that will be my last time patronizing the Williamsburg location.

Until Next Time Friends!

Pennie Penz







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