We made it over to Orinoco in Brookline last night for dinner, wanting to compare it to the original in the South End, which I like very much. We were very impressed, as the food we had last night was every bit as good as in the South End, and while the location in Brookline has similarly tight seating (no bad jokes or political talk from me last night, as I was afraid of an EF Hutton moment), it is bigger--a bit less cramped--than the one in the South End.
We started with a plate of three empanadas (shredded beef, black beans, and whitefish). The shredded beef empanada was the best of the lot, with a sweet, rich taste to the beef that reminded me of some of the best shredded beef-based dishes I've had in San Diego. The black bean empanada was also tasty, though not up to the level of the beef patty, IMO, and the whitefish was excellent, with a slightly fishy but pretty mild taste.
Our entrees were outstanding: The cordero entree (pistachio, brown sugar, and plantain-crusted New Zealand lamb chops) was out of this world, with very little gristle or fat, and the watercress salad with blue cheese and a mushroom vinaigrette was also very nice. And the pabellon criollo was just about perfect. (I mispronounced it as "Papelbon creollo"--had the Sox game in mind, I guess). Once again, the shredded beef was sweet and rich, and the black beans and rice were fresh and delicious. The plantains were a bit more greasy than I would have liked, but they were pretty decent overall.
For drinks we had lemon juice and passion fruit juice, both of which were refreshing--if it were a weekend night, I probably would have tried the sangria and/or some of their other alcoholic drinks, but I passed on all of that last night.
We finished with a molten chocolate cake that was made with 100% Venezuelan dark chocolate. It was as good as I figured it would be, and all the caffeine in it helped me stay awake for the terrific Sox game that was to come much later in the night.
Service was excellent, and prices were pretty good, with the bill totalling around $50 plus tip. The noise level was pretty high and as I mentioned, it's pretty tight seating, so if there was anything negative about the place in my eyes, I guess it would be that it's not the most relaxing place to go to for dinner.
I haven't really had a truly great meal in two or three months (probably the last really good one was at Estoril in Fall River or Mango II in Tewksbury, both awhile back), but this definitely ranked up there for me, perhaps among the top 10 restaurants I've been to in 2008. I'm hoping to go back again soon, perhaps with a large group where we can reserve that one big table in the middle of the place.