Posted on | December 13, 2009 | 9 Comments |
I don’t think I’ve had real Venezuelan food before. I am sure there might have been a few Venezuelan (most likely fusion) dishes in other Latin American restaurants we’ve been to, but the first time I actually paid any attention to the cuisine was at Meza Latin fare in Capitol Hill. Meza is a cozy little restaurant on 14th Ave serving Venezuelan, Cuban and Spanish comfort food. It is open till 3 am on weekends, so it makes the perfect place to grab a cheap bite after drinking and/or dancing your way through the hipper Capitol Hill hangouts. Or if you are like us, whose dancing shoes come out only on New Year’s eve these days and drinking almost always must accompany some good food, this can serve as your destination restaurant for the night too.
I had to do some research on Venezuelan cuisine after our visit to Meza. Arepitas aka tiny Arepas are flat, unleavened patties made of cornmeal and are a staple in the Venezuelan cuisine. At Meza, the toasted corn cakes can be filled with your choice of pork, chicken or cheese. They even offer a vegetarian version with avocados, tomatoes and caramelized onions. These are served at $6 a sandwich and are available only till 11pm as these are freshly prepared and take some time to make. We had the La Playera with chicken, avocado and cilantro. I thought the corn cake itself was pretty bland, it had an interesting texture almost like a half cooked unfermented bread. I think it must be an acquired taste, I was not a fan.
The Bocadillos on the other hand were much more interesting. These are sandwiches served on toasted Giuseppe Loaf from Macrina and had much more flavor. We had the Ibiza ($9) - with seared scallops, Jalapeño, Lettuce and fresh garlic aioli, served with a spicy habanero sauce. This was one spicy and tasty sandwich. There are pulled pork and chicken versions of the bocadillos on the menu as well.
In addition to the Arepitas and Bocadillos, Meza offers a nice selection of Tapas. Our favorite was the Seared Scallops ($6). This was served with a spicy red wine reduction and had fresh sliced jalapeños for that extra kick. We had to go for seconds. This dish was on the too spicy side, may not be for everyone. All the tapas are served with toasted slices of the Macrina Giuseppe loaf, perfect for soaking up all those delicious sauces. We also had the Toke De Pollo($6) - tender braised chicken pieces with sweet caramelized onions and Fruta Guyaba ($6) – braised pork drizzled with fresh guava reduction and Las Vedes ($4) – olives in a herb marinade. All these tapas had an unpretentious street food-ish vibe. These went nicely with our Negra Modelos.
After all that food and seconds on certain items, the four of us were pretty full. How can we not be, look at all that bread! We were the only ones at the restaurant by then, the regular dinner crowd had disappeared and the late night club scene crowd hadn’t started coming in, so we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. The chef is a really friendly dude and he came to us multiple times to make sure we were having a good time. I don’t know whether they do this for everyone or we were somehow special, but we were served a Tortilla Espanola on the house, free food is always a nice touch.
We wanted to end the night on a sweet note and as they had only two desserts on the menu, it was an easy choice – go with one of each. Flan de Cristina ($4) was so much better than Manzanitas ($4) – sliced apples served with blue cheese and walnut.
All in all, Meza is a nice place to chill out with friends and have a cheap and interesting meal, while kicking back a few beers or a pitcher or two of Sangria. It sure is a nice change from the usual Seattle restaurant scene. Authentic and unpretentious are the two words to describe this place.