After a recent (delicious) experience of South American (specifically, Colombian) food at Sonido! I thought I would continue the theme and try out another new South American place in Fitzroy – Cruzao Arepa Bar. I had read good things about Cruzao Arepa bar (Fitzroyalty and What’s for Tea?), including that the food is cheap, tasty and the Venezuelan owners are very friendly.
Mr M & I went to Cruzao Arepa Bar with my parents, as a quick farewell before they went on holiday. The menu heavily features arepas, there is one soup available, then pasapalos (nibbles) and sweets. The arepas are offered with a range of fillings – shredded beef, shredded chicken & avocado, roast pork leg, black bean and feta, chorizo and cheese and avocado. Unsure what an arepa is? Cruzao takes the guesswork out by having this explanation on its website and in various places throughout the bar:
We started with some drinks and nibbles. Even though it was a quiet Monday night, I went for a mojito ($8) (well, it really is the most apt beverage!), if you are feeling less cocktail inclined beer, wine and a seriously impressive selection of juices (pineapple, soursop, lulo, tropical berry, guava, mango and passionfruit) are also available.
Our nibbles arrived – grilled chorizo with lemon ($9) and empanaditas, 3 beef, 3 cheese ($9):
I was very excited to try the empanaditas as they are made totally from corn and therefore gluten free, while a lot of others include a wheat component. These were hot, crispy and flakey and I really liked the aioli type of sauce that was served with it – garlicky but not too garlicky. They were also served with guasacaca, a guacamole-style sauce which was not as flavourful. I really enjoyed the chorizo – it had a nice kick of heat and worked well with the lemon squeezed on top.
On to the main event – we ordered an arepa each. At the top of the page is the shredded beef, below is the roast pork leg with garlic and red wine, black beans and feta and shredded chicken and avocado ($9 each):
The arepas were crispy on the outside with a fluffy inner and quite different to the arepa I had at Sonido (which was larger, thinner, crispier and was served with filling on top, rather than within). I suspect that this comes down to the difference of origin of the arepas – Venezuelan at Cruzao and Colombian at Sonido! (Wikipedia seems to support this theory - though I am happy to be corrected if I am mistaken!). I enjoyed the Cruzao arepa itself, though I was less enamoured with the fillings – yes, with all of them. Unfortunately, I just found the fillings to be quite bland and I ended up slathering them in the garlic mayonnaise and the guasacaca which was still on our table from the empanaditas. The most tasty arepa was the black bean and feta and I think the least appetising was the beef, which was a bit tough and stringy. Quite a disappointment.
We powered on to dessert, which in true South American style were very sweet and anything but bland. We ordered all of the sweets – a corn sponge cake with papaya preserve, Tres leches cake (three milk cake) and Venezuelan corn flan ($5 each):
Both the flan and the sponge cake with papaya preserve were made of corn and therefore gluten-free, while the tres leches is a sponge cake made from wheat-flour. Incidentally, the entire menu is gluten-free, other than the tres leches and one of the nibbles, the tequeños (which is a crispy cheese stick wrapped in dough). I couldn’t really eat the tres leches (due to the wheat factor) but I tried and loved the vanilla flavoured custard-esque liquid made from the aforementioned three milks (condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream). My dining companions liked the tres leches the best of all the sweets for its light texture and that delicious milky custard. My favourite was the flan, which was dense but soft and soaked in caramel goodness. I also quite enjoyed the corn cake with darkly caramelised papaya on top.
All in all, it was a good meal that was let down by the star of the show – the arepas. The things that I cannot fault are the service (friendly, good natured and a little cheeky) and the value – the bill arrived and it was $120 for the four of us (which included the all the food, 6 alcoholic drinks and coffees). I would visit Cruzao for a drink with friends, enjoy a mojito or three and to have a few nibbles to go with them. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Cruzao Arepa Bar
365 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 7871