Say hola to Venezuelan arepas.
THE AREPA IS everything to Venezuelans, a gluten-free cornmeal patty eaten plain or split open and stuffed with meat or beans. They’re about as ubiquitous as a burger or kebab in Caracas, eaten any time of day but always a hit late at night. Sydneysiders might have seen La Reina’s bright orange stall at weekend markets or food festivals but their newest digs in Newtown finally offer a permanent address for arepa fans to get their fix.
This small but cheerful eatery is already hugely popular among homesick South Americans. The menu is short and sweet, with photos providing a handy reference guide for newbies. Order and pay at the register before pulling up a stool at one of the communal tables. Staff will bring you your order.
The standard stuffed arepa comes jammed with shredded chicken, beef or pork with ’slaw. Our favourite would have to be the reina pepiada, a juicy chicken breast and avocado combo that’s zingy with lime aioli. Vegans can revel in slow-cooked creamy black beans with grilled and caramelised plantain bananas with coleslaw. If you’re the kind of person who suffers from FOMO, get the sampler pack of four mixed arepitas (mini arepas) with your choice of fillings. Those cute little snack pockets even come tinted pink, orange and green thanks to beetroot, carrot and kale juice.
Whatever you choose, prepare to get messy. Nobody’s complaining though. It’s all about that warm and toasted crunch of the grilled shell that tastes like the lovechild of a corn tortilla and an English muffin.
Arepa bowls are easier to eat but not half as fun. The pabellon bowl lets you choose one meat with rice, black beans, feta, plantains and two mini plain arepas on the side. But before you eat, don’t forget to pay a visit to the self-serve condiment station. Load up on the mild red pepper sauce and add squiggles of guasacaca, a gauacamole sauce made from avocadoes and vinegar. 69-77 King St, Newtown 2042. 02 9550 9347. www.arepaslareina.com. Tue-Sun 11am-9pm.