La Reina

Say hola to Venezue­lan arepas.

Time Out (Sydney) - - TIME OUT + AMERICAN EXPRESS - By He­len Yee

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. Tue-Sun 11am-9pm.

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