Last Saturday another brunch turned lunch quest led four of us to Orinoco, my favorite Venezuelan ARRRRREPA spot in the South End. I have an unhealthy obsession with corn cakes of Latin origin, so when eggs were absent from Orinoco’s Saturday menu…I was quick to switch gears into lunch.
Orinoco is relaxing and casual with cheerful service. I can’t think of a place I would have rather spent the hours between 1 and 2:30 last Saturday. If that’s not enough, listen closely: THE COFFEE KICKS ASS. Its better than…everywhere. It’s bold and kind of nutty, not at all bitter and so so so smooth. If I could have that South American crack before work everyday, my average mood would increase by 300% exactly.
Since plantains make my friends and I very happy, we started with two orders: one plain (Tejadas) and one filled with cheese (Marachucitos). The Tejadas were fabulous, satisfying any and every plantain craving that could ever exist but the Marachucitos are something else all together. The cheese was mild in taste and the texture was almost like string cheese, a great addition to a fried plantain. Adding cheese really does do wonders to just about anything.
We also ordered the Mechada Empanadas. Crispy fried outside and tender spiced beef on the inside. Fiesta in mouth, enough said. AND it comes with a huge salad with jicama and feta cheese, who knew? Not me… but I liked it.
Salads…meh. This beautiful heart of palm salad…OMFG. It comes with bacon wrapped dates for one, but that’s not even why its good. Well, partly. Anyway, the greens were the perfect size, it was pre-tossed with a great dressing, the hearts of palm were perfectly cut (shredded-ish), and it was packed with cheese. I should have ordered two.
We tried two different Arepas. Orinoco serves up Arepas like sandwiches essentially replacing the bread with a corn cake and overstuffing them with various meat or vegetarian options. The Pernil Arepa was served with tomato and cheese, which really put the pork in the spotlight. The pork was melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy. The La Llanera Arepa was packed with stuff, making it a bit overwhelming. The pink sauce on top had a great red pepper flavor, and the pepper and avocado were a great addition, but the meat itself was chewy compared to the tender pork in the Pernil. The sauce that came with the Arepas was enjoyed by all, it had a vinaigrette texture with tropical flavors. My complaint about the Arepas was difficulty to share, the outer shell was pretty solid, making cutting impossible and messy.
The service became a little spotty towards the end, but we were so satisfied with the food it didn’t even matter at that point.
Orinoco always leaves me wanting more. Instead of lunch I need to go for a nice dinner and order some fancy entrees, I’m sure they are excellent. They also serve brunch on Sundays!