“Barriga llena, corazón contento. Full belly, happy heart.”

Amidst a sea of vibrant colors and a collection of playful Spanish proverbs, these words are painted on the walls of Puyero Venezuelan Flavor, a new restaurant that’s bringing the unique and rich flavors of Venezuela to the Philadelphia community.

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Nestled behind the baby blue storefront on the edge of Queen Village Philadelphia, Puyero Venezuelan Flavor presents authentic street food in a refreshingly casual yet refined manner. Immediately upon entering, the environment exudes warmth and comfort in all essences. The ambiance is both bright and lively, lit by delicate hanging light bulbs and decked out in colorful tables and soft wooden furniture. The guests are noticeably buzzing with excitement for the journey they are about to embark on, smiling as they quickly skim through the various options on the menu. The staff is not only inviting, greeting their guests with warm welcomes and friendly faces, but also clearly enthusiastic and passionate about the Venezuelan foods served and the cultural experience that the restaurant as a whole brings to its customers.

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To start off the night, Leah, my photographer, and I first tried the Tequeños, a deep fried dough stuffed with white cheese. Frankly, I have always had a distaste for cheese, so I was naturally skeptical about how I would personally react to the appetizer. As I took a bite into the flakey, buttery outer shell, the taste of the warm, creamy cheese was surprisingly savory and rich. The flavor of the cheese was actually perfect for my palette — while it was salty and had its own distinct flavor, it was not overwhelmingly powerful and was subtle in its taste. The Tequeños can also be paired with a multitude of house-made sauces, including green mayo, chipotle ketchup, papaya hot sauce, and sriracha. My personal favorite was the papaya hot sauce, which offered an intriguing blend of fruitiness with a kick of spice, but I also enjoyed the green mayo, which added a level of depth and creamy flavor to the Tequeños. After my first Tequeño, I found myself restlessly eyeing the platter of appetizers, hoping I could save room and sneak in another serving at a later point. With such a wide range of flavor combinations at my disposal, the Tequeños were definitely a fun start to the night.

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Having just finished our savory appetizer, Leah and I then moved on to something a little bit sweeter. The Mandocas, a corn flour and plantain mix fried in cinnamon and topped with white cheese and cream, were soft, warm, and sweet. The cheese and cream were an interesting sweet and salty combination, yet they somehow went perfectly with the cinnamon, sugary flavor of the appetizer. As a whole, the Mandocas nicely complemented the rich and buttery Tequeños, and are a great appetizer for anyone who’s craving something sweet.

After finishing our appetizers, we moved onto the entrees, which included a mix of arepas and patacones. Arepas are a traditional Venezuelan ground maize patty stuffed with an assortment of cheeses, avocado, meats, beans, and sauces. Patacones contain similar ingredients in the filling, but are instead wrapped in between two fried plantain sandwiches.

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For me, the De Calle arepa was hands-down the star of the night. This arepa had a fried, crispy outer patty, filled with roasted pork shoulder, green cabbage, white cheese, topped with ketchup and green mayo. The patty had a unique crunch that contrasted the soft pork shoulder, smooth white cheese, and creamy sauces. The cabbage elevated the dish by adding an element of freshness, and I loved the way the sauces added to the dish, contrasting the sweet ketchup with the salty pork and the creamy mayo with the fresh cabbage. Altogether, this dish was one that I thoroughly enjoyed and definitely something I’ll be coming back for in the near future.

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The Patacón Pisao was also a stellar dish and combined fried plantain patties with shredded chicken, ham, white cheese, gouda, and cabbage topped with ketchup, green mayo, and mustard. The fried plantain patties had a softer texture than that of the arepas, with a hint of sweetness from the plantains. The filling included chicken and ham, which were salty and well-cooked, but not as flavorful as the pork shoulder in the arepas (in my opinion). Similar to the arepas, however, the sauces in this dish the provided a nice contrast to all the elements in the filling. The ketchup and green mayo added sweetness and creaminess, and the inclusion of mustard also added a powerful and distinct flavor to the dish.

And last, but certainly not least, we finished the night off with some dessert! After feasting on these beautiful arepas and patacones, we tasted the Marquesa. The dish was served in a small cup and contained a thick, creamy chocolate cake between soft, vanilla cookies. The cake was a perfect level of sweetness, and had a wonderful thick consistency that reminded me of a mousse. The vanilla flavor from the cookies paired well with the chocolate flavor from the cake, making for a unique Venezuelan twist on a classic combination.

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As a whole, Puyero Venezuelan Flavor offers a wonderful culinary journey through traditional Venezuelan cuisine. The environment is fun and playful, the food is full of flavor and true to its roots, and the people are full of passion and love for their food.

Puyero Venezuelan Flavor will begin to open for lunch on Friday, March 17th. To celebrate, they will be having free arepas on Friday, March 17th from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM, complimentary sides with any order of an arepa or patacón on Saturday March 18th 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM, and free churros on Sunday March 19th from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM.

If you, too are interested in checking it out, visit 524 S. 4th St. Philadelphia, and leave with una barriga llena y un corazón contento.

 

Carissa Zou

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