We had theater tickets in Falls Church on Saturday and decided to try a new place specializing in Latino cuisine of Venezuela & Columbia.
We arrived for our 6:15pm reservation at CARAQUENA ((www.lacaraquena.com- which is the term for a native of Caracas).
The tiny place was jammed with over 1/2 a dozen people standing in the doorway hovering over tables nearby where folks were ordering and eating.
There were two women (one taking orders, one at the "bar" as a hostess) and one busboy and the kitchen has to be the size of a small bathroom!
I started to have doubts especially since the locale in a small building on the property of the Stratford Motor Lodge in downtown Falls Church looks about as welcoming as a Motel 5.
The "hostess" said our table would be ready soon, and we began to worry even more as the parties that were nearly finishing were at tables going to those in front of us.
We did sit at 630pm or so and while this was not too long, we worried more as our show started in 90 minutes. We ordered about 10 minutes later, and waited.
It took about 25 minutes for our one appetizer to arrive. I had heard this place was awesome for arepas, and the rumors are true.
We ordered one CARNE MECHADA Arepa which arrived stuffed to the gills with shredded beef and a tasty but not too spicy japaleno salsa on the side.
You could easily make a meal of two arepas, but then the vegetables are sparse as the ingredients tend to be meat, starch or cheese. We should have started with the chicken perhaps, as our main
course was made up of the same meat.
Samuel had ordered the POLLO ALA PLANCHA which is cooked juicy and served with a tasty lemon-caper sauce, which he adores. It had a side of broccoli which he stared and changed the mashed potatoes to fries (in an adorable mini-fryer basket), which were okay, but needed salt. Speaking of salt, it seemed that everything (save the fries) was indeed slightly oversalted, but still tasty. Our main courses arrived just as we finished the arepa, so indeed we made our show with tons of time to spare. So once you are seated and ordered, everything tends to come at once!
Will ordered a Palma Louca Brazilian beer which he liked, but my glass of Lopez de Haro Tempranilla/Crianza was only okay--maybe it was the saltiness of the food that made it taste funny?
Our main courses were a dream: PABELLON COMPLETO con BARANDA is again a pile of the pulled beef with fried plantains, avocado, black beans, queso blanco (very salty white cheese shredded) and rice all topped with a sunny side up fried egg. It's a gem of a dish guaranteed to fill anyone.
Above our table was a framed apron from the chef signed by TV chef Guy Fiero with a "Guy ate here" scrawled on it dating back to May 2010. So this place has a following.
The one thing I really hated were the fraying colorful woven placemats that were slightly too large to fit two on one table, so that if you jiggled your mat, if forced the other person opposite you to have his food, or worse, the wine glass move!
Not well thought out. They need to be trashed.
Latin salsa music plays quietly and the mood here is upbeat and actually not too noisy (we had a table of 10 or 12 next to us for a birthday) as the place can't even fit two dozen diners!
I'd love to go back on a quieter night to savor the other arepas and the yummy looking margaritas!