Venezuelan was one of the cuisines that we were looking forward to from the very beginning. I had read about it after hearing of Cruzao Arepa Bar in Fitzroy, which has sadly now closed.
I read of fried corn parcels, of pulled pork and of ever-present cheese – Venezuelan cuisine could be the raw ingredients that dreams are made of. So finally, two and a half years after we started at the letter A, the letter V had come around.
Given Cruzao’s closure, we needed to find another restaurant that was proficient in Arepas. Sonido! was it.
Walking into Sonido! reminded me of the accommodation we stayed in in Cuba, where it’s commonplace to lodge at a family home for a small fee per night. You eat with them, cook with them and sleep in their house, a truly great way to travel. Sonido! feels just like a welcoming, colourful South American lounge room.
Although it isn’t strictly Venezuelan, the menu at Sonido! is predominantly made up of areapas. In fact, if it’s not arepas or empanadas you’re after that night, you’d be best advised to head elsewhere.
Our table of 10 was snuggly accommodated at the only large(ish) table in the place. We started with a selection of beef and vegetarian empanadas. For those who aren’t familiar with empanadas, firstly, do yourself a favour and get familiar. These little calorie bombs are usually made up of a delightful rich meaty (or not) filling, encased in a flaky, buttery pastry. Sonido’s empanadas were bigger than the ones I’ve had in the past but just as tasty.
During our little entree, our spanish speaking waitress brought out endless amounts of cold Quilmes beers and happily renewed our bottle of red.
The choice of main was not difficult given that arepas were the only option, it was just a matter of choosing which ones. We had: cheese, “old clothes” beef, black bean and fetta, chorizo and morcilla (aka black pudding). We also token ordered some side dishes of black beans and salad even though these exact things came alongside our arepas.
The stars of the show arrived on our table and we dug in – sharing them in a similar fashion to how a venue of vultures might share a zebra carcass.
The chorizo was chunky, salty and of course delicious.
The black beans were hearty and tasty.
The beef was flavoursome, although not the stand out I expected.
The blood pudding was rich, not at all offensive (as some might expect) and a great order.
And the cheese…oh the cheese. I can’t explain why the simplest of the arepas was by far the best. I mean, what is it about a toasted cheese sandwich (on white bread) that makes it so good? Is it the saltiness, the gooeyness or the oil that drips down your arm as you eat it? Whatever it is, take that same x-factor and fry it. Then you have a cheese arepa.
Although the metaphoric zebra carcass had been stripped to bare bones, the feeding frenzy wasn’t quite over. I mean, for starters, we hadn’t had our national shot. Upon asking the waitress if they had any Venezuelan spirits, she told us sadly that they did not. Rum is the only spirit in the house at Sonido! so Havana Club it was. However, she did hilariously suggest that she could get a Venezuelan to bring it to us, an offer which, in the absence of Venezuelan liquor, we gratefully accepted.
So out came our previous waitress who we now knew to be Venezuelan to serve us our shots. The rum was nice; strong but manageable. What was perhaps more pleasing was the variety of glasses that it came in (one, a super mini jug) and the old picture frame, complete with picture used as a tray to carry the 10 glasses. Thanks Fitzroy. As seemed to be the theme of the place, nothing matched. The chairs, the plates, the glasses and the decor were all mismatched in a kitsch but ever so charming way.
Following the shots, there were still some menu items we hadn’t explored. Cheese and caramel, cheese and guava and hot chocolate (add cheese). We’ll take one of each! Throw in four Portuguese tarts for good measure. The cheese and guava was so-so, hot chocolate and cheese was just as it sounds – hot chocolate…add cheese.
The Portuguese tarts were of course fantastic, so much so that we ordered 2 more but the real stand out of the entire night was the caramel and cheese. W.O.W.
There’s a reason why salted caramel features on the menus of nearly every eatery in town these days. The combination of salty and almost sickly sweet is irresistible and I get the feeling the South Americans were on to this way before MasterChef. Cheese and caramel was essentially the most basic, simple expression of the trend we all know and love.
Take a firm slab of slightly salty white cheese and on top of that, plop a huge dollop of extraordinarily sweet dulche de leche. Eat by the spoonful. So good we ordered another two.
Absolutely choc-a-block, we handed over $60 per person and rolled out of Sonido!
If you’re after variety or a light healthy meal, I dare say Sonido! isn’t the place for you. However, if you’re after a fun place, quaint atmosphere, a drink or 10 and a satisfying bite to match, head straight to Gertrude St.
Embrace the Fitzroy vibe and explore cheese in all its savoury and sweet glory! Toilets are past the avocados to the left.