Monday, December 04, 2006

Restaurant Review - Q'Kenan, a Venezuelan cafe, 8117 Vineland Ave, Orlando, FL

Grandma and Grandpa, who are always on the hunt for new restaurants, were referred to Q'Kenan by a fan of the place. Otherwise, I don't think we would have found it. Q'Kenan is located in the Pubix shopping center next door to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede and the Premium Outlet mall. The restaurant is around the corner from Publix, behind the Walgreens, in a small, but pleasant space. There are booths lined up along the left side of Q'Kenan with a counter showcasing some of the food along the right side. Above the counter is a board with photos of the Venezuelan specialties on the menu - a big plus for us since we were not familiar with the food.



When Grandma, Grandpa, the boys and I sat down, a server arrived immediately to answer any questions about the menu. In fact, the servers here are extremely nice, especially to "gringos" like us, and patiently explain the different types of food and offer suggestions. I had thought I would be familiar with some of the cuisine but it was very different from the Cuban food I was used to in Miami. Starting with the beverages -- besides the standard soft drinks, Q'Kenan also offers several interesting items such as Malta (a malt soda) and Frescolita (a very sweet red soda) which Grandpa and Grandma ordered. My Little Boy (LB) was crying for chocolate milk so I asked our server if there was something similar. He suggested a Toddy, which is listed as a chocolate milkshake on the menu, but which our server said was closer to chocolate milk. My Big Boy (BB) decided he wanted a Toddy too. I saw my favorite -- watermelon juice -- listed on the menu but was told that they were out of that. This was true on a subsequent visit as well so perhaps watermelon juice is seasonal. I wasn't too interested in the other juices available - Blackberry, Papaya, etc. - so I just got a water (I know, I'm very picky with my drinks). Grandpa enjoyed the Malta and said it was like a sweet root beer/cola drink. Grandma liked her Frescolita and said it was similar to Big Red which is a regional soda from Texas. The boys loved the Toddies. To me, it tasted kind of like a malt Ovaltine mixed with milk, but I was happy they liked it. Just from the beverages, I got the impression that Venezuelans like their food sweet, and when I saw the Cachapa, I knew I was right.

Now, from carnivals and fairs that I've visited, I always thought an Arepa was a thick, sweet corn pancake with white cheese inside. It turns out that in Venezuelan cuisine, the sweet corn pancake is actually a Cachapa and the Arepas are more similar to a crusty roll, such as for a sandwich. Q'Kenan's menu is sectioned by Carnes/Steaks, Pollo/Chicken, Arepas, Cachapas, and then other starters and sandwiches such as Empanadas, Tequenos (a type of fried cheese stick), and even a sandwich made with Platanos (sweet green bananas) as the "bread". There was one notation that said "Kid's Meal $5.99" but then nothing else. I found out that was a platter of chicken nuggets - kind of pricey - so I decided the boys would just share with me. Grandpa ordered the Parrilla Tepui Mixta for $11.99 which was really a mixed grill with beef, sausage, pork, chicken, yuca, arepa, fries and a house salad - a lot of food for the money. Grandma ordered just an Empanada ($1.95), which turned out to also be made out of corn meal, not the pastry I was used to in Miami. I ordered a Chicken and Avocado Arepa (Reina Pepeada) sandwich ($4.60), a Ham and Cheese Cachapa (Jamon y Queso Rallado - $6.49), and an order of black beans and rice ($4) for me and the boys.

Grandpa's Mixed Grill was huge. BB helped him eat the meats, which were just wonderful - very flavorful. Grandma's Empanada was also very good and she finished it quickly. When the Chicken Arepa arrived at the table, I was a bit taken aback. It looked like boiled chicken that had been soaked in the sour cream sauce. I tried a bit and it tasted like I expected - like a bland chicken salad. However, Grandma and BB liked it and ended up eating the rest. I also didn't like the texture of the Arepa, it was too dry and crusty for me. However, the Cachapa was fabulous. The corn pancake had been folded in half and then topped with sour cream. The ham with the blander cheese tasted fantastic with the sweet pancake. When Grandma saw it, she decided to order a plain cheese Cachapa since she was still hungry after her empanada. LB liked the Cachapa as well so it was a big winner all around. The black beans and rice came on a huge platter and was enough for our whole table. The food at Q'Kenan is a very good value for the money - we were all full and didn't have room for dessert. Q'Kenan is a very friendly place to try new foods that you may not have tried before.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

HI RESTAURANT MOM!

GREAT JOB ON THE VZLN. FOOD DESCRIPTIONS.( I'M HALF VZLN.)

I'M NOT A MOM BUT HAVE BEEN GIVING A LOT OF THOUGHT TO DOING SOMETHING LIKE WHAT YOU DO IN SO FLA & CAPE COD.

YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION.

IT SEEMS LIKE YOU DO A THOROUGH JOB WHILE PROVIDING A MUCH NEEDED SERVICE.

ANY THOUGHT ON MAKING COMMENTS ON CLEANLINESS/ SANITATION APPEARANCES???

THANKS SO MUCH!!!

Restaurant Mom said...

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy my blog! You should go ahead and just start blogging if you are passionate about it - it's pretty easy at blogger.com - if I can do it, you can do it! Thanks for the tip on cleanliness - I'll try to do a better job mentioning that in my reviews. Basically, if it's really dirty in a restaurant, I probably won't stay but I realize there are "degrees" of cleanliness. Thanks again for your positive comments.

Carmen said...

Hi,

I am also impresed by the description of the food. I have eaten at this restaurant several times and they are very consistent with the way they treat you and the quality of the food. One correction I should mention the creamy sauce on top of the cachapa is not sour cream but more like a cream milk, it can also be used instead of butter with the arepa. I will read your other posts as you seem to be very helpful and insightful.

stjon said...

Hi,

I am visiting soon and am a big fan of Venezuelan food. I smiled when I read your review and am delighted at the possibility at having a meal there when I visit Orlando this week. Can you tell me if it is still open? I can't find a website or a more recent review.
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Just went there based on your recommendation. The place is hard to find, tucked away in a development close to the i-drive premium outlet mall. The waiter did not speak any english, and all the customers were spanish speaking, so be prepared to order by pointing to the large picture board if you don't speak any spanish. The food was good. The price was right for the neigborhood. Ok so it's lunch counter food, nothing fancy. But worth a try.

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