Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Orinoco, Brookline Village and South End, Boston

Why do we go out to eat?  Kitchens are pretty standard fare in most living situations.  Grocery stores are pretty abundant.  Presumably, we could cook at home every day- so why do we go out?  Obviously there are a ton of reasons- "inability" or dislike of cooking, special occasions, socializing, and trying something new.  Now my favorite of these- is trying something new.  I enjoy cooking in my own kitchen thoroughly, so I love to go to a restaurant and try something that is brand new to me- ingredient, technique etc. The best time is when a restaurant can make me feel as though I've been transported to a completely different place, and the cuisine is all part of the journey.  Sunday evening I had the opportunity to dine at Orinoco, a self described "Latin Kitchen" located in both the South End, and Brookline Village, and found myself immediately transported to Venezuela-where the kitchen pulls the most inspiration.

The bright colors of the decor, mixed with the wall adornments all screamed Venezuela to me, and as we perused the menu, the music swelled and I had the distinct feeling of being on vacation.  Vacation, in my book, calls for Sangria and so I ordered myself a glass.  This was one of the best glasses of Sangria that I have had in ages. Based with red wine, this Sangria had bright, fresh fruity flavors, with a hint of cinnamon.  

We began our meal by sharing one of the special appetizers for the evening- an Arepa Portobello.  An Arepa, made of cornmeal or corn flour, shares many characteristics as a pancake, roundly shaped, and either grilled, baked and pan fried into a patty.  Orinoco stuffed their Arepa's here with large, thick slices of Portobello mushrooms, and then served over a warm sauteed spinach, mushroom and corn salad, and with a roasted cubanelle pepper sauce.  The Arepa's themselves were fantastic.  The patties were thick and fluffy full of flavor with sweet corn mixing with anise seed.  The combination was beautiful.  The mushrooms stuffed inside were perfect cooked, tender but still meaty-the way a portobello should be.  The warm salad, however, though it added wonderful textural relief and a nice compliment to the corn of the patties, it was grossly over oiled.  The spinach was slick with grease, creating that terrible mouth feel where the sides of your mouth and tongue sort of go into revolt.  I'm not sure if they just added too much oil to their saute pan, or didn't allow it to heat fully before adding the spinach, but it made the saute a bit unpleasant.  The mushrooms and the corn however did manage to avoid the oil spill and maintained their bright flavors and textures. 

I elected to try an entree that sounded as authentic as possible, and settled on their Pollo Adobo, billed as a half chicken, marinated in Adobo Criollo, grilled and served with charred scallions and an oregano oil.  It was offered with an optional supplement of gnocchi in a trumpet mushroom cream sauce, which I decided to decline.  The gnocchi, while it sounded tasty, just seemed to be too heavy for the chicken, and after enjoying the carb heavy Arepa's-I felt that a lighter entree would be for the best.  The chicken was served on a plate of its own, topped with the charred scallion and drizzled with the oregano oil.  The chicken was perfectly cooked, moist and tender, full of flavor both from the adobo seasoning and the char from the grill.  I loved the smokey components mixed with the pure taste of the chicken, and the onion-y goodness from the scallion.  I did find that the oregano oil was lacking the oregano punch, and was sad that it wasn't a stronger flavor in the dish.

My dinner companion ordered one of the specials for the evening for dinner, a pork tenderloin served with a coffee glaze, candied jalapenos, a fresh fig and an arugula salad.  This dish was absolutely incredible.  The coffee glaze brought the pork to a level beyond itself with the its espresso and sweet qualities.  The pork itself was well cooked, and when paired with the slightly sweet and spicy jalapeno- the flavors combined int a beautiful harmony.  The fig served was fresh, green throughout rather than the dark colored dried that most of us are used to, and its sweet flesh had been wrapped in smokey bacon adding yet another component to the wonderful contrasting flavors that this dish offered.

I was beyond pleased with my experience at Orinoco.  Each dish was well thought out and creative, and though there were missteps along the way, the other components reflected away from those and left the diner with a very content feeling.  Orinoco will definitely be added to my "go to" restaurant list for fairly priced cuisine that offers imaginative dishes full of unique twists and turns. 


Jen said...

We LOVE Orinoco. Haven't been in a while though, so thanks for reminding me to go soon. You should try the avocado colada - it's pretty amazing. And their mojitos are really good too.

Kristen said...

Funny - I was originally going to eat here for the first time tonight! But we are checking out Zocalo instead. So many latin/mexican restaurants to try, so little time!!

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Orinoco's arepas is where it's at!

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