There is excellent local fish (pargo or red snapper), crayfish, small oysters and prawns. Of true Venezuelan food there is sancocho (a stew of vegetables, especially yuca, with meat, chicken or fish); arepas, a kind of white maize bread, very bland in flavour; toasted arepas served with a wide selection of relishes, fillings or the local somewhat salty white cheese are cheap, filling and nutritious; cachapas, a maize pancake (soft, not hard like Mexican tortillas) wrapped around white cheese; pabellón, made of shredded meat, beans, rice and fried plantains (vegetarian versions available); and empanadas, maize-flour pies containing cheese, meat or fish.
At Christmas only there are hallacas, maize pancakes stuffed with chicken, pork, olives, etc boiled in a plantain leaf (but don’t eat the leaf). A muchacho (boy) on the menu is a cut of beef. Ganso is also not goose but beef. Solomo and lomito are other cuts of beef. Hervido is chicken or beef with vegetables. Contorno with a meat or fish dish is a choice of chips, boiled potatoes, rice or yuca. Caraotas are beans; cachitos are croissants of bread. Pasticho is what the Venezuelans call Italian lasagne. The main fruits are bananas, oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, pineapple and papaya. NB Some Venezuelan variants of names for fruit: lechosa is papaya, patilla is water melon, parchita passion fruit, and cambur a small banana. A delicious sweet is huevos chimbos – egg yolk boiled and bottled in sugar syrup. Venezuelans dine late.
Mochimeros is highly recommended. Don Quijote, Av Bermúdez. Very good. The only restaurant open during the week is El Guayacán.
Venezuelan rum is very good; recommended brands are Cacique, Pampero and Santa Teresa. There are four good local beers: Polar (the most popular), Regional (with a strong flavour of hops), Cardenal and Nacional (a lisa is a glass of keg beer; for a bottle of beer ask for a tercio); Brahma beer (lighter than Polar), is imported from Brazil. There are also mineral waters and gin. Now there is a good, local wine in Venezuela. The Polar brewery has joined with Martell (France) and built a winery in Carora. Wines produced are ‘Viña Altagracia’ and ‘Bodegas Pomar’. ‘Bodegas Pomar’ also produces a sparkling wine in the traditional champagne style. Liqueurs are cheap, try the local ponche crema.
The coffee is very good (café con leche has a lot of milk, café marrón much less, cafe negro for black coffee, which, though obvious, is not common in the rest of Latin America). Visitors should also try a merengada, a delicious drink made from fruit pulp, ice, milk and sugar; a batido is the same but with water and a little milk; jugo is the same but with water. Fruit juices are very good. A plus-café is an after-dinner liqueur. Water is free in all restaurants even if no food is bought. Bottled water in cervecerías is often from the tap; no deception is intended, bottles are simply used as convenient jugs. Insist on seeing the bottle opened if you want mineral water. Chicha de arroz is a sweet drink made of milk, rice starch, sugar and vanilla.