Charming Venezuelan chef Migdalla Bellorin has opened a new restaurant in the Cape Town city centre, focusing on ‘the flavours of Latin America’ generally, and of Venezuela and Mexico specifically. It is the second South American restaurant in the Cape Town city centre, with the Peruvian restaurant Keenwa close by.
The restaurant is named after the Orinoco river, one of the longest in South America, and which flows through Venezuela and Colombia. The building exterior has an Art Deco design, and its long narrow interior is broken into sections, with the open kitchen and bar on opposite sides near the entrance. The interior is more Mexican, while the food served is more Venezuelan. A comfortable black couch with red cushions is the first splash of colour, and the far wall is painted a lovely rich yellow. A shelving unit contains South American ceramic items, Pan corn flour imported from Venezuela, and a local range of eat.art spices. A deli counter is stocked with spicy sauces made by Chef Migdalla, and includes Peperonata, Chilli pasta pesto, Guasacaca, Yellow pepper sauce, Chimichorri, and Habanero. She also stocks some of Oded’s Kitchen sauces. As the sauces are unfamiliar to most, pieces of bread and tasting portions of each of the sauces are available to clients to try. Wooden tables, chairs, and shelving units come from Chef Migdella’s home, she said.
Chef Migdalla came to Cape Town six years ago, and run Constantia Catering until a year ago. Since then she has set up the restaurant, with splashes of colour added with a row of coloured lampshades over the bar area, and Mexican style vases with proteas on the tables. She was born in Venezuela, but grew up in Mexico.
The menu is still a typed list, and will evolve, the restaurant only being two weeks old. Coffee is by Peacock, and two sizes are available, at R16 and R18. The cappuccino was perfect and foamy. The beverage list only contains four brands: Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc (R30/R120), Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc (R25/R100), Saxenburg Merlot (R30/R120), and Brampton Shiraz (R35/R140). No vintages are listed.
The menu is divided into Breakfast (7h00 – 11h00) and Lunch (12h00 – 15h00) sections, with Arepas and Mexican tacos available throughout the day. For breakfast open sandwiches are on offer (Capresa, Rustica, and Pampas – roasted mushroom, sliced egg and rocket on rye bread) at around R40. Cooked breakfast options cost R40, and are Huevos a la Mexicana (scrambled egg with tomato, chilli, onion and coriander served with tortilla and refined beans), Huevos rancheros (fried eggs in tomato sauce served with tortilla and refined beans), and a ‘Healthy Breakfast’ of grilled haloumi, poached eggs, apple, served with rye bread. For lunch, a buffet of six salads is offered daily at a special rate of R45, the selection differing every day, including lentil and butternut, roast vegetables, Capresa, grilled brinjals, shredded chicken, quinoa, avocado and prawn, and potato salad. For an extra R25, one can order a meat of the day with the salad. Arepas are a Venezuelan dish made from corn flour and water, and fried or grilled, stuffed with shredded tomato chicken and avocado, served with a salsa of tomato and onion, and Guasacaca sauce, a filling dish costing R40. Other filling choices are slow cooked pork, chilli con carne, and vegetarian. Mexican Tacos cost R45 for three small and R75 for a large portion, with the same fillings as the Arepas. Capetonians who got to love the taste of empanadas at the Mount Nelson can order large ones at Orinoco for R15 each, with a choice of spinach, chicken, and beef. On Friday evenings they serve cocktails and tapas, including calamari and chicken mayo. Lovely looking cakes were on the kitchen counter, including lemon, apple, chocolate and a ‘mielie cake‘. Chef Migdalla brought a freshly baked ‘mielie cake’ made with orange to taste, an unusual but delicious taste.
The staff are friendly, not yet 100% familiar with all the names and Latin American origins of the dishes, but Chef Migdalla is there to explain. Many of the dishes have chilli in the sauces, but these are served on the side if one does not like it hot. Orinoco is an interesting restaurant at which one can stretch one’s food knowledge and taste in a friendly and welcoming space. I loved the herb garden at the entrance, with lemon thyme, rosemary, parsley, and more, as well as granadilla, demonstrating how easy it is to grow one’s own, even in the city centre.
Orinoco, 17 Bree Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 418-4544. www.orinocoflavours.co.za Monday – Thursday 7h00 – 18h00, Friday 7h00 – 21h00.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage