Raising an Adventurous Eater: Vague on Venezuelan

Orinoco-Tequenos
Tequeños are Venezuelan cheese sticks. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

So far, my family has had a few good eating adventures. I knew that sooner or later, we would hit a roadblock. That block was at a Venezuelan restaurant—and it was made up almost entirely of fried cheese.

That’s not to say that fried cheese is bad. (Oh, quite the opposite.) And I’m not going to say that this outing was awful, because it wasn’t. We went to a place in Boston called Orinoco, which has gotten all sorts of awesome reviews. I was very excited. Going into this restaurant, I had all sorts of mouthwatering ideas about spice and corn and more spice. Alas, it was not to be.

The restaurant is in a beautiful location in the city. The decor was great, the service was great, and even the menu was really appealing.

I started off the evening with a Mojito Cojito, a drink that the waitress had recommended. It definitely made me feel like I was hanging out on the beach, but only because it had a slight taste of Coppertone. That’s because this drink is made with coconut rum and had tons of pieces of coconut swimming in it for good measure. The more I drank it, the more I liked it though—go figure, it’s made with rum!

Orinoco-empanadas
The empanadas. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

For an appetizer, we opted for Tequeños, which are basically Venezuelan cheese sticks. The big difference between these and your typical cheese sticks is that the dish is made with guayanés cheese, which is a white cheese that originates from the south east region of Venezuela. American fried cheese is typically served with tomato sauce, but these came with a chipotle ketchup. It was a yummy, spicy condiment, but it also seemed really weird to be dipping cheese sticks into ketchup. I don’t mind weird, but I was a bit disappointed that the ketchup was the star of the dish. The cheese was supposed to be salty, but it and the coating on the outside came off as a kind of bland. My mantra that “fried = good” was blowing up in my face, people. That said, my son hoarded the extra stick to himself. He wasn’t the least bit disappointed—yet.

For the entrees, he chose what seemed to be the most authentic between the three of us: empanadas. We’ve had a few empanadas before, but these featured a Venezuelan-style shredded beef and peppers. He’s not a fan of peppers to begin with, but he picked a few of those out and managed to wolf down a good portion of the beef and a few of the outer fried pockets. My husband said the flavor reminded him of sausage and peppers that you’d get a ball park—and he meant that with the highest of praise. The dish also came with a salad, which had a sweet, garlicky dressing on it. That was enjoyed by all.

My husband picked Parrilla Caraqueña, a mixed grill plate that included strip steak, chicken, and chorizo. It also came with a side of yucca fries and guasacaca, which is Venezuela’s version of guacamole. He said it didn’t taste particularly ethnic, but that everything was very well seasoned. Overall, he was completely happy with his meal and almost cleaned his plate (and some of my son’s too).

Orinoco-grill
The Parrilla Caraqueña, a mixed grill plate. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

For my entrée, I opted for Pollo Adobo, which is a chicken dish. I also ordered up a side of yucca fries, which sounded like a good idea at the time. I love me some fried goods, but after the cheese, the fries felt like a bunch of little bricks sitting in my tummy. The chicken looked pretty enough and was made with oregano oil and scallions, which it was swimming in. It was cooked really well, but a little fatty for my taste. It was also a bit saltier than I like.

I’m not sure how authentic the food is here, but I had read it was pretty darn close. I don’t expect all of our adventures to be wonderful, but I found this one to be particularly disappointing. I think because I was expecting so much more. I would love to come back again though and maybe order something different. The atmosphere was lovely and the menu was filled with other options that I had my eye on. In the meantime, onward and upward!