Wed | Dec 1, 2021

Arepa House, es muy perfecto

Published:Thursday | November 11, 2021 | 12:11 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Check out the shrimp and guacamole salad bowl and build it your way.
Check out the shrimp and guacamole salad bowl and build it your way.
Pabellon bowls are considered Venezuela’s national dish and a must-try at Arepa House.
Pabellon bowls are considered Venezuela’s national dish and a must-try at Arepa House.
‘Mi casa es su casa’, a Spanish expression of welcome meaning ‘My house is your house’.
‘Mi casa es su casa’, a Spanish expression of welcome meaning ‘My house is your house’.
Pabellon bowls are considered Venezuela’s national dish and a must-try at Arepa House.
Pabellon bowls are considered Venezuela’s national dish and a must-try at Arepa House.
Natalia Leon’s welcome message puts a smile on the faces of all who enter, even those who don’t understand Spanish.
Natalia Leon’s welcome message puts a smile on the faces of all who enter, even those who don’t understand Spanish.
The Reina Pepiada was named after Susana Dujim, a Venezuelan beauty queen who was crowned Miss World in 1955.
The Reina Pepiada was named after Susana Dujim, a Venezuelan beauty queen who was crowned Miss World in 1955.
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‘Bienvenido! En Arepa House todos somos familia. Come bien y disfrute su ambiente.’ These are the words written in liquid chalk and signed by Jamaican-Venezuelan Natalia Leon, owner of the recently opened bistro. It translates in English to, ‘Welcome! At Arepa House, we are all family. Eat well and enjoy the ambience.’

Leon wants when people enter Arepa House, inside Progressive Plaza on Barbican Road, their five senses are awakened, and for this reason, the décor is somewhat personal, she explained, about the items she hand-picked. Some of them are ceramics painted by her mother, Milagros Leon. Another is a large mural by local artist Kirk Cockburn showing the role of the South American woman in the community. Down to the tables and chairs are extra special.

“Each corner in here has a little story. At first, I was kind of confused with what I wanted it to be, but then after sitting down with my mom and my partner, we realised that we could not lose with authenticity,” said Leon.

Cooking for Leon is a love language, she told The Gleaner.

“I mean it when I say there’s an art in food. When I think that people are putting something I create into their bodies, it should reflect the art,” she said. “When I started cooking from our kitchen at home, I had dreamt about expanding it into something bigger – to incorporate the fast-casual market – getting healthy and fresh food to people who would eat it, and my sisters supported the idea.”

The Arepa House menu is extensive, including first and foremost arepas, which are baked, fried, or grilled unleavened corn dough that can be stuffed with cheese, meat, and beans. Also on the menu are pabellón bowls, considered a national dish of Venezuela, traditionally made of fried plantains, shredded seasoned beef, white rice and black beans.

She said, “I decided I was going to create my own twist to it by taking out the beef, which is the authentic meat for the pabellón, and then add chicken or shrimp – and people liked it.”

Juan Mosquera, one of the directors and her fiancé, said that he could taste the love in the food that she cooked because “she presented it like art”.

“This was when she first started cooking. Iit is actually how we even met,” he shared.

When Food visited the eatery, the arepas were served with a signature garlic cilantro sauce but really did not need the added flavours. The only way to describe them is: ¡Son muy perfectos! It almost felt like a crime to destroy the arrangement of the pabellón bowls that Leon put together. But in the end, it was worth it because it was the only way to taste the wonderful combination of flavours that takes you on a trip to Venezuela and back.

stephanie.lyew@gleanerjm.com