Give Me Latin, Give Me Loud, Give Me Patacon Pisao!
Originally published on FoodGem.com (no longer an active site).
“I don’t usually do this, but this food is so good, I just have to take a picture,” exclaimed a very satisfied customer as he pulled out his phone and snapped a photo of his delicious patacon. The excitement of this customer is shared by most of the clientele at Patacon Pisao, a small slice of Venezuela located at 139 Essex Street. The restaurant was filled with people for the entire length of our visit, and all seemed to be having a good time, smiling, laughing, and enjoying some incredible food.
The restaurant began in 2005 as a food truck in Washington Heights run by owner Jonathan Hernandez and his mother. Hernandez and his mother wanted to introduce a different side to Latin cuisine and highlight their Venezuelan background. “I wanted to show that Latin food isn’t just tacos, I love tacos, don’t get me wrong, but Latin food is so much more,” said Hernandez.
The masses were receptive to Hernandez’ food truck and his take on Venezuelan food and encouraged his decision to open up a location in the vibrant Lower East Side.
“I just told the artist, give me Latin, give me loud, give me Patacon,” said Hernandez of the colorful mural he commissioned from local artist Joseph Meloy to give his restaurant a fun urban vibe. The restaurant is a perfect fit for the LES- it’s hip, relaxed, and eye catching. Hernandez designed the space with his food truck in mind, it has tin roofing and wood paneling to give it an outdoorsy feel as well as a huge window that simulates food truck windows and offers a great view of the lively neighborhood. There are also plenty of neon lights, and a mixture of Latin music to give the restaurant a place in the late night scene (Patacon is open until 2 am Thursday-Saturday). The place is simply eye popping and you can’t help but get a little ecstatic when you walk in.
The food is just as stimulating as the space. On our trip to Patacon Pisao, my colleague and I had the patacon de pabellon , a cachapa known as “La Gorda”, and tequenos. The patacon de pabellon is essentially a Venezuelan sandwich that consists of black beans, shredded beef, plantains, shredded cheese, and nata (Venezuelan sour cream) all sandwiched together between plantain buns. The beef was extremely savory and paired well with the fresh and creamy nata, but the best part was the little pop of sweetness you tasted whenever you bit into one of the plantains. Warning, the patacon is extremely messy (it comes with a wet nap) but it’s so good you might just lick it off your fingers. The cachapa is a traditional sweet corn crepe and ours was filled with double smoked bacon, mozzarella and nata-this was definitely my favorite. The cachapa itself was soft and sweet and the mozzarella was extremely fresh and brought out the smokiness of the bacon; it was akin to a Latin chicken and waffles, sweet, savory, warm, and so comforting. The tequenos, cheese sticks wrapped in dough and then fried, are heavenly, the gooey delicious cheese melts in your mouth as you chew and the breading adds a special little crunch that makes them the perfect snack.
The dishes that Hernandez has put together for the menu at Patacon Pisao are delicious, but one of the most thrilling things about this restaurant is that you can put together your own Latin treasure. You are given creative license to choose a base and then fill it with whatever you like; some tasty options include shredded beef, chorizo, queso blanco, fried egg, avocado, plantains, etc.-definitely a plus for people who like to mix things up.
Patacon Pisao has a great atmosphere and Hernandez, who exudes Latin warmth and seems to be best friends with all his customers, makes you feel right at home. It’s a fun and comfortable place to go any time you want something simple that will really please your taste buds. In the words of Hernandez his food is perfect “before you go out, after you go out, if you have the munchies, whatever time.”
Publication Name: FoodGem
Date of Publication: November, 2014