The holy trinity of Venezuelan cuisine can be considered the tequeño, the arepa, and the chalupa but there is so much more. The caraqueño chef, Leo Araujo has claimed his second restaurant in the capital after spending years in Girona and before that, leaving his beloved Caracas behind.
He tried and he conquered. After his four years in Cataluña, he decided to launch himself into the Madrid adventures in 2010. In Madrid, he debuted with La Cuchara, first step- although by foot- of the value of his Venezuelan gastronomy, serving also as a place to meet with friends and numerous members of the community. More than 100,000 are Leo’s compatriots that within months of La Cuchara, many of them found shelter and camaraderie from what they left behind while enjoying the table.
Then and there was the arrival of the second ‘child’: Apartaco, that opened in 2017 in the Madrid neighborhood Chamberí, tempting their pallets with the Venezuelan recipes. Here the arepa is almost a religion, presenting plated of four in four with a base of reina pepiada, dominó, pernilona and pelúa; or the chalupa, where the corn dough is made with a delicious and light cheese that reminds Leo the chef of the days of parties. “In may house there was grandmother’s plate, on Sundays, for the family” (original quote in Spanish), he remembers.
Paired up with these we find fundamental tequeño, cuya forma podría servir como columna para la cultura culinaria de Venezuela. Crujientes with an intense cheese, Leo’s tequeños are accompanied with three sauces that combine the spicy, the fresh and the fuirty. “In Venezuela there is European gastronomic influence, from the ideigenous, African and that is my intent for translating this all to my plates” (original quote in Spanish), he recognizes.
A test for this local is the Pabellón Ibérico, a Spanish wink to the othere pillars of the Venezuelan cookers like it is the pabellón criollo, where rice, black beans and meat are all mixed. These plates give the protagonist to the Cerdo Ibérico, demonstrating that although the Atlantic separates us, flavor reaches all boundaries. Upon walking through their doors, the accents and curiosity are mixed throughout the flavors, making it to where the Venezuelans, the Spanish, and many other American migrants co-live.
Making his restaurants into places to unite and remember Venezuela, Leo and many others are convinced that the good times will soon return. Between suspiros and spoonfuls, Apartaca vibrates with Latin music and taste of their desserts, that hook everyone without importing passports. “The Venezuelan is quite the sweet tooth, so I had to accustom myself to fewer desserts upon arrival” (original quote in Spanish),” confessed Leo
Temptations like the tres leches or the quesillo, a type of sugary flan, are the sugary emblems of a menu that is full of flavor with a kitchen that is nonstop running and where the cocktail bar opens up space, with juicy preparations where the freshness and fruitiness predominate; for example, the Gurapito or the Maragaracucha, perfect seal pf what we identify as Venezuela: joyful, fun and always ready to celebrate.
Address: Calle de Luchana, 7, Madrid.
Telephone: 686 97 49 16.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 13:00h a 00:00h. Friday and Saturday from 13:00h a 01:00h.
Average price: Entre 25 y 30 euros.
Text: Jaime de las Heras.
Pictures: Nacho Alcalde Ruiz.