Orinoco, "a Latin kitchen," is a tiny, romantic, and festive space on the corner of Shawmut and W. Concord St in the South End. I love the fact that it is not around any other restaurants or bars; as you walk down the quiet, tree-lined street at dusk, Orinoco is a warm and inviting beacon of light.
People had told me it was a tiny space, but I had no idea it was this small. There were about 6 or 7 two-tops lined up quite close to each other on one wall, 3 booths, and a large table in the back. That's it. In summer, they also have some tables on the brick sidewalk. On this chilly September night, we opted for inside.
Waiting at the small countertop, a harried host/manager/bartender(?) brought us some glasses of wine. We ended up not having to wait the full time luckily, and were seated pretty quickly.
It took a long time for the server to come over to us -- he was definitely "in the weeds" -- but once he did he was energetic, friendly, and helpful. We started with the trio of empanadas-- one stuffed with cheese, one with seafood, and one with black beans. I think the last one was my favorite. We also split a side order of fried sweet plantains. It reminded us of our time in Puerto Rico-- so delicious!
Z got as his entree the pabellón criollo (about $13), "Venezuela’s most folkloric dish," which is shredded beef, white rice, black beans and plantains. This is Z's ideal meal-- he is obsessed with rice, beans, and plantains. We switched half-way. For being $13, it was a large amount of food.
I went with one of the arepas ($5.75) --traditional Venezuelan corn pocket sandwiches-- stuffed with Venezuelan creamy guayanés cheese. I love trying foods I've never had before-- it was not what I expected at all, and had an intense crunch which mixed with the soft and creamy cheese was a fun flavor and texture combination.
We didn't try a dessert, which I wish we had, as the girls next to us were oohing and aahing over a molten cake made with Venezuelan dark chocolate. Our experience at Orinoco was definitely a positive one-- cheap prices, good, unusual food, and great ambiance all make me want to visit again. Especially for lunch-- their salads look great too!
UPDATE-- Have returned since I wrote this, and the salads are awesome!! Inventive and fresh.