147 Enmore Rd
Enmore, NSW 2042
My biggest fear when it comes to going out to eat in Sydney is finding a cool new place, only to have it close before I can make my way to it. Given how fast the restaurant turnaround can be, coupled with the fact that there’s usually a 6 month gap (minimum) between me finding a place and actually going to eat there, it’s happened more than once before and left me quite upset. And to be honest, I had half expected Arepa to be gone by the time I actually got around t eating there, but as far as new openings go these days, they’re rather tenacious, and have been doing a brisk trade for the last few months despite Covid.
I imagine part of the appeal of Arepa is its uniqueness; I certainly don’t recall coming across any other restaurant in Sydney that specialises in Columbian street food. The place is a bitty little takeaway shop, but that makes sense, given that their namesake dish is basically a cornbread pocket stuffed with fillings, meant for eating on the go.
I love Cassava Chips ($5.5), but see them so infrequently on the menu that I couldn’t help but order a serve, even though I’m supposedly trying to drop the weight I gained during iso. But really, there was not much regret on my part, as these were so very worth the splurge. Cut to a size you’d normally only see with polenta chips, these are like giant fries, but better in every way. The coating is crispier, the centre is fluffier, and overall it just tastes lighter in a way that makes it easy to scoff down a whole basket by yourself. And that’s even without the selection of house-made sauces on the side – a creamy sauce reminiscent of tartare, and a spicy mayo if you like things hot.
I’m all about that go-hard-or-go-home life, so of course I had to have the El Jefe ($16.5), aka The Lot. Stuffed with black beans, feta, guasacaca (avocado salsa), pulled pork, and fried plantains, this may fit into one hand, but it is certainly not for the faint-hearted. The combination of salty cheese and tender meat was extremely satisfying, especially when you get a good mouthful of the creamy avocado salsa at the same time. Best of all, the plantain added a tropical sweetness that you don’t get very often, elevating this beyond your usual sandwich.
The Vegan ($11.5) balanced things out with its considerably more virtuous combination of beans, slaw, guasacaca, and plantain. This time around, it was the contrast between the soft, freshly fried plantain and cool, crunchy slaw that really made it shine. The simple ingredients also made it easier to appreciate the fragrant chewiness of the arepa, which did an impressive job of holding together, especially given how stuffed it was.
After making Chris promise he’d eat the bulk of the Churros ($7), I decided to go for it, Chocolate Sauce ($0.99) and all. This turned out to be a great decision. Not only were the churros freshly fried to hot, crispy perfection and rolled in ample cinnamon sugar, the dark chocolate sauce was also rich with the aroma of cocoa beans. These may be gluten free, but they give any traditional churro a run for their money.
Arepa is a fun little spot for a quick bite if you’re sick of the same-same. The food is simple, fresh, and filling, and you can be as virtuous or as indulgent as you like with your choices. It’s also a great place to bring friends for some bonus foodie cred; during our meal, I saw at least two groups led in by a friend with swagger in their step, promising everyone some great Columbian food.
Rating: 13/20 – pocket pals.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.