Saturday, April 15, 2006

South American

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Buenos Aires [513 E. 6th St. (bet. Ave. A and Ave. B) 212-228-2775]
A quaint neighborhood steakhouse, this authentic Argentinean restaurant offers up excellent steaks at realistic prices. Try the Jamon Serrano to start, but avoid any salads. This place specializes in meat. I went with the Bife de chorizo (Shell Steak) and had more than enough to fill me up. But if you have an even bigger appetite, I recommend the Bife de costilla (Ribeye Steak). The atmosphere is very nice as well, and I especially enjoyed seeing soccer games on two flat screen TVs!

Caracas Arepa Bar [91 E. 7th St. (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-228-5062]
From what I have read, this tiny place might be the only authentic Venezuelan restaurant in the city (except for its To Go sister cafe next door). Caracas offers a variety of Venezuelan specialties, but the arepas (think stuffed english muffin, but made of corn flour) are the signature dish. Along with my assistant, I tried the De Guasacaca (guacamole and cheese), the Reina Pepiada (chicken and avocado), and the De Pabellon (beef, black beans, plantains, cheese). All the fillings were fresh and tasty. The arepas themselves were very good as well. They were a little too hard for me the first time I went, but the second time, the arepa consistency was just right for my delicious La Del Gato. For appetizers, start with the Guasacaca (Venezuelan Guac) and the Yoyos. All in all, Caracas will offer you a great meal for a great price.

Pio Pio [1746 First Ave. (bet 90th and 91st Sts.) 212-426-5800]
One of the best deals on the Upper East Side, this Peruvian chicken joint will fill you up with good food on the cheap. The centerpiece of the experience has to be a full chicken. This will comfortably feed three people, and maybe even four if you load up on sides. The chicken is tender and flavorful, offering both white and dark meat. As for side dishes, my favorites were the Maduros (sweet plantains), the Avocado Salad, and the standard rice and beans. All of these are perfect for sharing, although you may need two orders of rice and beans if you have four people. Make sure to show up early if you can, because this small restaurant fills up quickly.

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