"Strictly speaking, the arepa is not necessary to sustain life," writes Ian McNulty this week, but it is helping sustain Central City, the long neglected neighborhood that's having a dining boom with the help of Maïs Arepas.
Opened by former Baru partner David Mantilla back in the fall, the stylish Maïs serves "thick, moist and crisped" arepas that "taste like a cross between cornbread and a tortilla, and on the plate they resemble pita sandwiches with their components bursting forth."
For the ultimate experience, McNulty suggests:
The bandeja paisa. It's like a single-serving buffet of chorizo, skirt steak, plantains, cranberry beans, a fried egg and a mini arepa all vying for room on a carved wooden platter, while a thick chicharron arches above like a rainbow of fried pork fat. It's decadent but also appropriate for this place.
While McNulty says some dishes "lack oomph," like the ceviche, most of the Columbian fare is worth the trip. Maïs Arepas also serves wine and beer. [Gambit]
Scott Gold takes in the "world flavors" at Mid City's Serendipity this week. The ever unconventional Chef Chris DeBarr? which Gold claims is more Lebowski than Lagasse? offers a playful and well-executed menu of what Debarr calls "psychedelic soul food." Take for instance Debarr's spin on a Peacemaker po' boy, that fried oyster/bacon/cheese tradition:
His "Oysters Delacroix" incorporates oysters braised in a horseradish cream sauce, Neuske's applewood-smoked bacon, and butter-braised romaine lettuce on top of a Dong Phong bakery roll. The horseradish cream provided an earthy, vegetal feel to the dish.
There are vegetarian options, a stellar bar program from Ed Diaz of Bar Tonique fame, an homage to the Hubig's pie, and all that "black magic" mojo you'd expect from a self-described "renegade hippie" chef. [Advocate]
· Review: Mais Arepas [Gambit]
· Big Easy-Going: Psychedelic Soul Food at Serendipity [Advocate]
· All Week In Reviews [-ENOLA-]
Mais Arepas [Photo: Nikki Mayeux]