Ah, an arepa, that glorious golden cornflour puck stuffed with goodness. For one night only, you can get some Jose Mendin in the middle. The Pubbelly chef and partner is staging a pop-up with La Latina late Wednesday night from 9 p.m till 2 a.m. at Pubbelly.
We have already raved about La Latina's vegan plantain and black bean arepa, and don't get us started on the empanadas de pabellón. The Pubbelly boys have already successfully tackled steak, sushi, and most recently French food at their series of restaurants, so arepas are a welcome departure into simple and delicious street food. But don't worry -- these gold disks are getting the Mendin touch.
We asked Mendin some burning questions about this upcoming griddle-hot night and how he plans to pack it with surprising flavors.
New Times: Why partner with La Latina?
Jose Mendin: I've been going there to eat arepas for a while and love that they opened a restaurant like that, that focuses on one of their national and most popular dishes. I love the place, the flavors, and I truly believe that their simplicity is very authentic and unique. After getting to know their manager, Carlos, and talking to him a couple of times, the idea was brought up: What if we did a Pubbelly-style arepa night?
Why not? I wanted to do a social night at Pubbelly, and this can become a regular thing. Maybe next we'll take on tacos, empanadas, street foods. But there is also the fact that when I went to Venezuela, I loved the arepas. It's something we don't do in Puerto Rico; we have our own version, but it's not made from corn. And I think that tasty, crusty corn masa can be filled with unusual fillings and be very tasty. We are just having fun, trying different things.
Which one are you most excited about?
I am excited for some of the Asian-influenced ones. We are going to do La Japo ("the Japanese"), which is going to have spicy tuna, lemongrass dressing, avocado, and seaweed salad. It will be a lighter take on an arepa; the warm arepa with the crispy-cold tuna will be amazing. And yes, I already tried it! Also, the cangreja pepiada is going to be amazing. The traditional reina pepiada is made with avocado and chicken salad; we are going to make it with a blue crab and avocado salad. La Latina is very excited about that one, and they want to put it on their regular menu. Also, I am excited about doing a Puerto Rican version. All of them are going to be great!
How do you hope your food will translate in an arepa?
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We are just trying to have fun -- make tasty, unpretentious food and do a night where everyone can have fun and eat something cool and different.
There you have it, straight from the Pubbelly pig's mouth. Show up Wednesday night and have an arepa (all $8) or three, stuffed with the unthinkable and the exciting. And if it's a success, Mendin might tackle other fare, like empanadas and tacos, on the regular.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst