At the heart of Venezuelan cooking is the humble arepa, a dense cornmeal cake that can be filled or topped or dipped or eaten plain. Arepas even make an appearance at breakfast, as we recently discovered at Caracas Arepa Bar in the East Village. Caracas occupies about as much space as Venezuela does in a textbook map, and eating in its tiny dining room can be a boisterous affair, with expats and staff mingling and hugging and chatting in a mix of English and Spanish. The real fun, however, is on the table, especially if you start with a perfect cocada (a coconut milkshake with cinnamon) and one of the daily juices, in our case a blackberry-strawberry mix that was so fruity it still had seeds floating through it. We split an arepa la del gato (fried plantains and avocado slices held together with guayanés cheese, a salty, soft Venezuelan specialty halfway between mozzarella and ricotta) and the criollo plate, a mix of perico (a scrambled egg dish with tomatoes, onions, and peppers), sweet shredded beef, hearts of palm, tomatoes, greens, grilled white cheese, and a plain arepa to stuff it all into.