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MichaelB | May 19, 2006 09:38 PM

Finally tried Orinoco last night and really enjoyed it. My friend and I walked in between 7:30 and 8:00 and got a table that had just opened up -- there was a sizeable crowd waiting, but we were luckily the only twosome. Service was very friendly and helpful, if a little slow at times, but I think the kitchen was getting slammed so no problem there. We split two arepas -- one with pernil and one with stewed chicken. Also got the datiles -- dates stuffed with an almond and wrapped with BACON. (!) Also (as if to compensate) the mixed green salad with roasted beets.

The arepa with pernil was fine -- the pork was nice and tender, good flavor but not great, quite salty. The arepas themselves are pretty firm, as others have mentioned -- does anyone know if this is a particularly Venezuelan style, or is that just how they make them here? I kind of liked it, and I imagine you could just pick them up like a sandwich if you wanted to. Anyway, the arepa with stewed chicken was superb -- tender, flavorful chicken, raisins (nice and plump from the stewing), olives, tomatoes (I think) and nice spicing. I could definitely eat one of those for lunch on a regular basis.

The datiles were great -- crispy bacon, sweet dates, what's not to like? The salad was nice, not terribly unusual (or Venezuelan, as far as I could tell), but well-made, with goat cheese crumbles, toasted pine nuts, and some very sweet grapes.

Total bill, with a beer and a white sangria which tasted almost exactly like fruit cocktail, was $37 pre-tax and tip. Really likeable place -- very reasonable prices (with a nice range of menu options from small bites to full entrees), nice atmosphere, GREAT hammered-tin ceiling, very friendly. I'll definitely go back.

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