A lot of restaurants are all bark and no bite. They are full of too much hype and not enough flavor. From food trucks to hole in the walls to 5 star establishments, I'm here to answer the question on everyone's mind, "Is it really that good!" I am not an Iron Chef let alone a line cook. I'm just an ordinary girl who loves to eat extraordinary food.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mil Jugos- A little taste of Velenzuela in Santa Ana

The first time I heard of arepas was while watching Bobby Flay’s Throwdown show. It is a Venezuelan dish that is a cross between a sope and pupusa in texture. An arepa isn’t the composed dish but rather the “bun” that holds the filling. It’s either grilled, baked or fried. I really had no interest in eating one until I was told that Mil Jugos had really good arepas. Here their arepas are grilled.

Mil Jugos is located in Santa Ana, CA. We ordered carne mechada,  polloqueso blanco, and the pabellon arepas. To go with it we also tried the cachapa con pernil (shredded pork) and a couple of their juices.

We ordered the apple and the watermelon juice. They were both freshly made and were blended with just enough crushed ice. In the apple juice, you can still see specks of the peel so you knew they used fresh apples. Although I wasn’t too fond of the apple juice, the watermelon juice was very good. There were too many choices to choose from. You can also do any combination of juices as well.

At the table there are two different types of salsas. One looked like a creamy guacamole salsa. The other, which was the one I used, resembled a really thick pesto. It was spicy but really good. If you use too much of it, it probably would take away from the taste of the filling. We ordered the queso blanco arepa for my son. Queso blanco is normally crumbly, but because it was in between the piping hot arepa, it became creamy. If you like queso blanco, then you would like this arepa. Since I don’t like it in a thick slab form, I didn’t even try it. Apparently, after a bite of it, I found out my son isn’t a big fan of it either. The chicken arepa did not taste at all how it was described.  I hardly tasted any of the garlic, onions or even salt. The chicken was tender but thought it needed more seasoning to it. The carne mechada arepa had shredded beef that was cooked with garlic, tomatoes, onions and red bell peppers. This arepa was very good. The beef was cooked perfectly. It was very soft and tender and seasoned to perfection. It had bold flavor and with a little salsa, it made it even better. The pabellon arepa was my favorite. It was basically the carne mechada arepa but with black beans and crumbled white cheese. The arepas itself had no taste. Just like a tortilla or plain bread, it’s rather bland and unflavorful. But with the meat and the juices soaked in it, it’s like a sponge full of flavor. The arepas kept form and didn’t get soggy from the juices.

I don’t know which I liked more, the arepas or cachapa con pernil. A cachapa is a pancaked turned omelet. It’s made of maize so by itself tastes like a sweet corn pancake. I say pancake turned omelet because it is folded over and inside it’s stuffed with your choice of  filling. Our was filled with white cheese, fresh cream and shredded pork. I love corn. I love it on the cob, cornbread, corn cakes and now cachapa. On its own it has that subtle sweetness and I could’ve eaten it on its own. The cream was a little tangy but was mellowed by that  thin layer of melted white cheese that was soothing to the palate. The shredded pork could’ve been a little more tender, but it was manageable to eat. The flavors of each component didn’t over power one another. You can taste each of them individually yet they all melded well together. This, along with the Pabellon arepa would be on my regular “definite things to order” list.

Top: Left to Right- Queso Blanco,Pollo,Carne Mechado arepas
Bottom- Pabellon arepa, Cachepa con Pernil
Mil Jugos is near the Civic Center so there is a lot of traffic around the area if you are trying to go on a weekday. If you are getting it to go, you wait in what could be an out the door line. If eating in, you’d be lucky during lunch time to get a table right away. We were one of the lucky ones. Parking is few and far in between and it’s also metered. Again, we were lucky to get a spot right in front. I would definitely recommend this place. Good service, great food! They also  serve freshly made empanadas but ONLY on Saturdays. A definite must try.

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