Venezuelan Food. If You Think It's Boring, You Haven't Tried King Patacon
I've got to admit I was late to the table in the appreciation of Venezuelan food. Compared with other South American cuisines -- fiery-hot Peruvian, beany and fishy Ecuadorian, African-leaning Brazilian, and feral steak Argentine with its Italian notes -- Venezuelan seemed too, uhhhhhh, comfort-foody, too much like the food I was raised on in the American Midwest.
What I was served were basically tea sandwiches made with split arepas standing in for white bread. The stuffings were often mayo-driven, featuring chicken salad, shredded beef, cheese, chorizo, and other ingredients already familiar from the pan-Latin diet, much of which is descended from Spanish cuisine.
Then I stumbled on King Patacon in Corona, Queens. The café's slogan is "Eat Like Royalty." The window was emblazoned with color snapshots of a broader range of Venezuelan antojitos than I'd been familiar with. The front of the house is run by the Dominican proprietor, whose Venezuelan wife cooks in a very orderly kitchen in back, visible from the informal caf&eaacute;, which includes a handful of tables and counter seating that looks out onto an ancient frame pool hall.
From a lush range of choices, I picked the café's namesake, the so-called king patacon. The patacon is a sandwich made with tostones (twice-fried plantains) instead of bread, but the king patacon turns a regular patacon into a monster feed.