Sure, you can get grilled salmon, Caesar salad or spaghetti at Maracuya Restaurant, but it would be sad not to try the Venezuelan-style treats. The 3-month-old place, meaning “passion fruit” in Spanish, offers platters of rice and beans with meats, corn cakes and patacone sandwiches. There are also pastelitos (small savory pastries), empanadas, and tequenos (dough-wrapped fried cheese fingers).
The small space in beige with white trim is owned and run by Wolfgang Molero and his wife Milecsa. Wolfgang, who was named after the naval officer who led the military coalition to depose a dictator in 1958, is from Maracaibo in northwest Venezuela. He fell in love with Milecsa through her cooking. They received political asylum a decade ago, settling in Orlando. Milecsa cooked at a restaurant relatives opened and Wolfgang, a mechanical engineer, worked at a car wash and theme park. They moved to Miami two years ago and spent 18 months renovating the space.
The yo-yo brings slices of fried ripe plantain sandwiched with shredded pork, beef or chicken, dipped in beaten eggs and fried, while the tumbarrancho is an arepa specialty from Maracaibo consisting of a deep-fried corn cake slit and stuffed with a choice of meat, Romaine ribbons and pink mayo sauce. Griddled arepas can be filled with everything from salt cod to grilled chorizo with cheese, salsa, and tartar sauce.
Start the day with the perico or “parrot” arepa bringing scrambled eggs with onion and tomato. Tostaditas are mini corn cakes topped with chicken salad known as reina pepiada or “beauty queen.” Small hats are fried green plantain dough cups stuffed with sautéed shrimp. Cachapas are sweet corn pancakes folded in a half moon with soft, salty white cheese with tangy nata sour cream on the side. Save space for passion fruit mousse at a place where all the food is cooked with love.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami food writer and personal chef who blogs at FoodIndiaCook.com.