Monday, May 24, 2010
Arepa Cafe....a little Venezuelan harbour on Queen St. W.
Started out for lunch with all intentions of hitting up TO's newest burger addition, Oh Boy, only to discover they were not flipping the patties due to a technical glitch with their grill. So we crossed the street to the other newest addition to this section of Queen Street, the Arepa Cafe.
The menu at Arepa is focused on Venezuelan food so we just went with the flow. My SO and I ordered up a couple of Arepas which are the Venezuelan version of a sandwich. They look like a large English muffin and are made of corn meal.
They are cooked on a griddle, then moved to a grill and then slit open, pulled apart and stuffed like a pocket. I ordered the pork & caramelized onions and my SO ordered the Cod with sweet peppers & onions. There are about 9 or so options of how you can have your Arepa stuffed from Tuna to Chicken to Cheese & Avocado. The Arepa is hot and freshly made to order and the average price is about $7 each.
For the most part we enjoyed them although I would have liked some condiments on the tables because my pork and onion sandwich was screaming out for a splash of Kozlik's mustard or something comparable. My other comment would be that they would really do the Arepa justice to side it with something, either some salad or some Venezuelan cole slaw (which is on the menu) because if you have any sort of appetite you'll be left wanting for more. Which is exactly what we found. The Arepa comes in a basket all by its lonesome self. It needs something to keep it company.
We also ordered a platter (all the proper Venezuelan names of the platters etc. is escaping my brain!) of flank steak with rice, black beans and fried plantain. The flank steak was delicious. It was shredded and mixed with some red & yellow peppers, onions and some sort of sauce. The only problem with it was there just wasn't enough of it. This platter was $11 and like the Arepa, my SO and I agreed, these were small servings.
My feelings about Venezuelan food is that it doesn't have the flavour pop of Thai or Indian foods. I like food with an attitude and I'm not just talking about heat, but foods that have truly distinct flavours that make you close your eyes and brings on the mmmmmmmm factor. The shredded flank steak was there but its meager portion disappointed us. The soup of the day was a butternut squash with honey and almonds. I didn't try it but I did ask the couple next to me about it and they really liked it. It did look like it had the consistency of a veloute.
The cafe itself is lovely. Bright, airy, spacious and spotless. The staff were super friendly and quite chatty. They also have some lovely little desserts and coffee which might make this a sweet spot for an afternoon cafe leche and something to tame the sweet tooth. I brought back some Alfajores for my office which were like two layers of thin shortbread with Dulce La Leche slathered in between holding them together. These were exquisite.
I'd like to wish Eduardo Lee all the best at their introduction to what he calls "Venezuelan urbanity" to the Queen Street core.