Brunch at Orinoco: A Latin Kitchen


I like saying the word quickly, with a lively roll of the “r” in the middle. The first time I tried arepas, I thought it would be like a taco, mistaking Latin food for Mexican food. But arepas, traditional Venezuelan grilled corn pocket sandwiches, are nothing like the tacos I expected. They were sturdier, heftier, slightly doughy and puffy inside, lightly crisp outside.

Filled with all sorts of goodies – cheese, meat, beans, eggs – they were like “little pockets of joy,” a description I once read that stuck with me.

I visited the newly-opened Orinoco: A Latin Kitchen in Harvard Square for brunch last weekend, and my girl friends and I filled up on good conversation and these little sandwiches.

Orinoco has two other Boston outposts aside from Harvard Square. There’s one in the South End and another in Brookline, but I’ve never been to either, in spite of my inclination towards restaurants that serve caipirinhas. (And flan.) I’ve been to another Latin restaurant (La Casa de Pedro in Watertown) several times and greatly enjoy the food and drinks, and I’ve heard many good things about Orinoco, so I was happy to finally check it out.

Orinoco is in a little hidden alley along JFK Street. It feels almost magical to step way from the bustling street into the quiet entryway.

I had to order a mimosa (had to!) because we were there for brunch. The Orinoco mimosa is made with proseco and passion fruit juice, and it tasted very refreshing.

We ordered some tequenos to start – Guayanes cheese wrapped in dough and served with chipotle ketchup:

Essentially the Latin version of mozzarella sticks.

Fried cheese for brunch, along with passion fruit mimosa? Why yes, yes, I would like that.

And we shared a few arepas so we could try little bites of everything:

Pabellon: black beans, mechada (shredded beef), tajadas (plantains) and queso blanco (crumbly white cheese that resembled feta)

Reina pepiada: shredded chicken salad, avocado, and tomato

Mananita: perico (Venezuelan style scrambled eggs) and chorizo

Guayanesa: Venezuelan creamy guayanes cheese

This was my absolute favorite dish at Orinoco. Sure, I liked the other arepas too, especially the mananita since I do love scrambled eggs and chorizo, but that wasn’t the arepa that stole my heart.

The guayanes cheese stuffed inside the arepa so closely resembled Filipino kesong puti (white cheese), the cheese I’ve loved my whole life. The soft pillowy texture, the slight saltiness, the intense creaminess – it was like biting into a sandwich from home.

The tequenos contained the same cheese, but fried, and it was more similar to soft, stretchy mozzarella. But fresh, stuffed inside the grilled corn bread, it reminded me of my very favorite breakfast item in the world.

We ordered a caramel flan for dessert (which also reminded me of leche flan from the Philippines) and while it was fantastic, after tasting the arepa guayanesa, I couldn’t seem to like anything else better.

My friends Kim, Mich, and I really enjoyed our brunch at Orinoco and we will definitely be back. Usually when I intend to come back to a restaurant, it is to try other items on the menu (like First Printer) but this time I am pretty sure that I will be ordering the guayanesa again. It was a pocket of joy, indeed.

Arepas. I say the word even quicker now, as if saying it faster will get me closer to my cheese. I can’t wait for my next one.

Have you ever had an arepa? What’s your favorite filling?

Orinoco: A Latin Kitchen (Harvard Square) on Urbanspoon

See my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu


25 Responses to “Brunch at Orinoco: A Latin Kitchen”

  1. #
    Rhonda posted March 24, 2012 at 10:53 am

    It all looks amazing, I love the entry way. I love anything with copious amounts of cheese so I approve of your selections :)

  2. #
    Tracey posted March 24, 2012 at 11:51 am

    This looks fantastic. I tried Orinoco in the South End a few times a while back and was disappointed both times – sadly. You are making me think I need to give it another go.

  3. #
    Tracey posted March 24, 2012 at 11:52 am

    You make Orinoco look fantasic and the Harvard Sq location looks so cute. I tried the south end one a few times and was disappointed each time. You are making me think I might need to give it another go.

  4. #
    AllieNic @ Frisky Lemon posted March 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    I literally just saw this place on Phantom Gourmet! Looks awesome! Definitely going to try it…especially because it’s so close now!

  5. #
    Colleen @ Culinary Colleen posted March 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I love arepas, and I didn’t know this place had opened in Harvard Square! That Guayanesa arepa really does look amazing. I can’t imagine a much better breakfast.

  6. #
    Daisy posted March 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    I’ve had arepas once, but nothing compared to how delicious these look. the space looks charming as well, another new spot I need to visit!

  7. #
    MelissaNibbles posted March 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    I’ve never had arepas. I really, really want the reina pepiada. I love anything with avocado.

  8. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted March 24, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    I’m so glad you reviewed this place – I’m heading there on Monday! So glad it’s awesome :)

  9. #
    MegSmith @ Cooking.In.College posted March 24, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Wow all of that looks INCREDIBLE. I think flan has to be one of my favorite foods…ever and that one looks top notch.

    Thanks for sharing such mouth watering pictures!

    P.S. nutella yogurt (as you mentioned on my blog) sounds incredible.

  10. #
    Junia @ Mis Pensamientos posted March 24, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    i love arepas, especially since they are so simple to make and gluten free :). i want to get an arepa maker! the scrambled egg one, i think, would be my favorite too :)

  11. #
    Michelle posted March 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    You have been checking out some awesome Cambridge restaurants lately. I love your restaurant reviews!

  12. #
    Elizabeth posted March 25, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I love arepas, Caracas in NY makes awesome ones. I went to the Brookline Orinoco years ago and loved it. I was excited when I heard they were opening in Harvard.

  13. #
    cassandre posted March 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    i love flan! i haven’t had it in so long.. the entire meal looks really yummy..

  14. #
    Erica @ Inandaroundtown posted March 25, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    I work right next to the Orinoco in Brookline and have been once, but really need to go back and order a few more things on the menu – some of you dishes look amazing!

  15. #
    Meghan posted March 26, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Orinoco has been on my list of places to visit for a while now. You photos are gorgeous, what a fun meal!

  16. #
    Lauren at Keep It Sweet posted March 26, 2012 at 8:01 am

    That meal looks delicious and love your photos! Did you get a new camera?

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted March 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      Thanks Lauren! I did get a new(ish) camera – a Canon Rebel T3i – a few months ago but only recently am I learning how to use the different settings and so I’ve been experimenting with my photos :)

  17. #
    Simply Life posted March 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    wow! you took some great pictures of this meal- looks like such a fun place!

  18. #
    Joanne posted March 27, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Okay, so…the Orinoco in the South End is one of my FAVORITE places to eat in Boston! In college, my roommate and i would go once every few months and STUFF ourselves with arepas. Oh how I miss it!

  19. #
    Megan posted March 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I’ve been to the Orinoco in Brookline Village for lunch. Your brunch looks great! But I do have to say I’m sad Small Plates is no longer there.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted March 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      I actually never even got the chance to try Small Plates!

  20. #
    Shannon posted March 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

    yes! I’ve been to both orinoco’s before, and the arepas are definitely the way to go :) that location looked familiar to me, and now i’m sorry to see that it was small plates!

  21. #
    Molly Galler posted April 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I love Casa de Pedro in Watertown! I eat there all the time. I’m not a huge arepa fan, but your photos are fantastic! This new location looks beautiful.

  22. #
    Adriana Aponte posted April 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Awww! Can I just tell you how close to home your post hits, I was born in Boston and grew up in Venezuela. So awesome to see: 1. our culinary culture’s expansion and 2. other’s appreciation for it :) I grew up eating these things, tequeños, arepas de pabellon and reina pepiada are indeed a staple of our culture. Glad you enjoyed.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted April 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Adriana, thank you so much for dropping by my blog and leaving that nice comment. I don’t get to eat Venezuelan food as often as I would like, but I do enjoy it each and every time. And isn’t it wonderful to have so many strong connections between food and culture? Take care!

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