Delectable food makes up for claustrophobic atmosphere

La Caraquena is definitely not somewhere you go for the ambiance. Connected to a decrepit, sketchy motel, the restaurant’s interior was dark, cramped, aged and uncomfortable. There were only a few seats, crammed so closely together that some booths only had one bench. However, the surprisingly delicious food made up for the establishment’s environment.

La Caraquena features some Latin American soft drinks on their beverage list, one of which was the Inca Kola for $1.99. It is branded as a cola flavored drink that is yellow in color, but the actual taste strayed far from the description. It had more of a unappealing bitter pineapple taste and it smelt of cough syrup.

We ordered the pl?tanos fritos as our appetizer. The sweet fried plantains, served with fresh Latino cheese, pico de gallo, and a peppery jalapeno chutney, had a nice caramel-like tang to them. Combined with the hot chutney and the cool cheese, the plantains meshed in nicely with the condiments, creating a fusion of spicy and sweet, all offset by the mild cheese. One good thing about the plantains was that they were not fried too heavily and still maintained a puree like consistency, which helped it blend with the other condiments. Overall, a decent appetizer for $4.99.

The diputato sandwich with its thinly sliced sirloin steak and melt-in-your-mouth fried egg really stole the show. The quality of the ?sirloin? steak was questionable as it resembled more of the kind of meat you would find in a gryo, but the juicy steak?s taste was too delectable to question. The fried egg was a good complement, with a cheesy texture to it. The accompanying sauteed onions were also a nice touch, giving off a sweet flavor. A buttered wheat bun held all of the components together quite nicely.

We also ordered an arepa, a traditional cornmeal bread, choice of fried or grilled, stuffed with various vegetables, meats, and scrambled eggs. Named the domin? our fried arepa was stuffed with black beans and thinly shredded white cheese. The contents of the arepa, unfortunately, did not impress much. However, the arepa bread was to be remembered. If it was not for the perfectly crisped quality of the bread, the bland black beans and cheese would not have been spared. Also, the portion size was a bit too small for $6.99.

We chose the quesillo borracho for desert, a Venezuelan cr?me caramel classic. A cr?me caramel is plain custard molded into a round cake shape doused with egg white and caramel. The quesillo borracho, however, was molded into a rectangle. The custard was rubbery and bland; any flavor that came through was from the banal caramel.

The bill came to a total of $35.00, certainly not a bad price for a meal of two. If you venture to La Caraquena, come for the food rather than the ambiance.