Venezuelan Food. If You Think It's Boring, You Haven't Tried King Patacon
The king patacon is bounded by woven, twice-fried plantains.
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.
The bill of fare of King Patacon is depicted on the window. (Click on image to read the menu.)
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.
It was raining the day I had my first king patacon at King Patacon.
A sideways look at a king patacon
The king patacon at King Patacon is made with a gorgeous lattice of woody plantains, top and bottom, delivering a profound crunch. Inside is a trio of pulled meats -- pork, beef, and chicken, with high-quality lettuce and tomato, shreds of yellow rubbery cheese, and an orange dressing that drips all over everything. Plowing your way through one is a messy but delicious pleasure, with sound effects.
The patacon is associated with Maracaibo, a city in northwestern Venezuela just south of the Caribbean on a waterway that connects the Bay of Maracaibo with Lake Maracaibo. It is a center of the country's oil industry, a port historically famous for its sailors and pirates, and the capital of Afro-Venezuelan culture, which the sandwich represents culinarily.
Eat king patacon for lunch and you can skip dinner. The price: $8.50.
King Patacon 42-19 102nd Street Corona, Queens 347-242 2430
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