Finally, we have arepas in Oslo! At least, we do for two more weeks. That’s as long as the SantArepa pop-up is open at Brygg Oslo. The temporary restaurant is run by siblings Manuela and Leonardo Alvarado – originally from Caracas in Venezuela. Leo is the chef and Manu helps run the shop. The arepas recipe is authentic and Leo imports corn to make his own masa de maíz. I love this Venezuelan street food, which looks like a mixture of a taco and a pita bread, or a Latin-American gua-bao if you want. The soft corn bun is pan-fried and later baked in the oven before it’s cut open and stuffed with delicious fillings. On the current menu, Leo and Manu present local variations from their hometown: La Dominó (black beans & fresh cheese), La Mechada (shredded beef & cheese), and La Pepiada (shredded chicken & avocado mayo).
I was first introduced to arepas by chef Karlos Ponte at restaurant Taller in Copenhagen back in 2015. Today, his Nordic-Venezuelan restaurant has been replaced by the more casual Latin-American eatery PMY (Papa, Maíz, Yuca), but arepas are still on the menu. Later, I have tried pretty awful versions at different street food markets, so I feel confident that I can distinguish a good from a bad. The ones at SantArepas are really good, in my opinion. La Mechada is my favorite, but La Pepiada is great too – it just needs some hot sauce. There are two types of sauces available at SantArepa. The green and slightly milder is a traditional Venezuelan avocado salsa called Guasacaca. For a bigger kick – add the red spicy habanero sauce.
– That’s how we eat it in Venezuela. You add some sauce and take a bite, Manu explains.
My first visit to SantArepa was two days ago. I ordered all the different arepas to taste, and I liked them so much that I had to return today. However, this time I made sure to bring my foodie friend and beer lover, André Brandt, so that we could order the entire menu. In addition to arepas, we tried the empanadas (made from the same dough, but deep-fried), yuca frita (Venezuelan fries made from deep-fried cassava root), and deep-fried cheese balls. I recommend the empanadas, in particular, if you have to limit yourself.
Pop-up concepts are only allowed for one month, maximum two, at Brygg Oslo. It’s going to be really sad to see this one go. Leo and Manu hope to open a full-scale arepas shop one day, but they have no investors yet (hint, hint, nudge, nudge). I can only recommend everyone to go here and try their arepas while they last, and to give the guys the motivation to keep pushing for a permanent place for this wonderful Venezuelan food tradition. Also, follow them on Instagram for future updates. I want arepas in Oslo! Arrrepas!
Do you want arepas to Oslo as much as me? Drop a comment below.
Brygg Oslo has previously advertised their pop-up concept on this site, but that was a one-off cooperation and is unrelated to this story.