Tucked away on a small side street in Boston’s South End, you find Orinoco. It’s no place to see and be seen and it’s not helmed by a celeb-chef. Instead, you step inside the tiny room to find friendly people, a rustic interior, and a small, but full, bar. Even before you look at the menu, it’s the kind of place that feels like a hidden gem.
Waiting for a table, you’ll find a mixed bag from those who come specifically for the arepas and pulled beef and then some who discover Orinoco after hearing the wait at nearby Toro was over an hour.
Getting down to brass tax, the food can only be described as juicy, delicious, and addictive. Health experts tell you to stop eating when you’re 80% full, but that is impossible at a place like Orinoco.
One of my favorite things on the menu is a dish I’ve personally ordered more than a handful of times — pabellon criollo. Simplicity at its best, it’s a plate of juicy, shredded beef, white rice, black beans, and plantains. And while I never asked what they marinate their beef in (I was too busy stuffing it into my face), it would not surprise me to learn it’s one part magic. Both empanadas make for mouth-watering meals — one is filled with stewed, shredded beef while the other is made with plantain dough and is filled with wild mushrooms, piquillo peppers, and Manchego cheese.
Washing authentic Venezuelan cuisine down with wines from Chile and Argentina rounds out the night; that the owners and wait staff all converse in Spanish amplifies it.