Most New Yorkers only know the basics of Venezuelan cuisine: arepas and empanadas. Few restaurants in the city offer the South American nation’s lesser-known dishes, let alone incorporate them into fine dining. Casa Ora is intent on changing that. A lived-in feeling pervades the space (its name translates to “home”), thanks to hanging pothos plants, velvet couches, framed maps of the country and photographs documenting Venzuelan street life.
It’s a full house: Ivo Diaz (a NoMad alum) and his partner, pastry chef Rachel Diaz Pirard, opened the space with his mother, Isbelis, whose home-style Venezuelan cooking has been transformed. We began our meal with tequeños ($10), or Latin-style cheese sticks, crispy shells that ooze queso blanco instead of mozzarella. We loved dipping them into the tartar and guasacaca sauces—a step up from simple marinara.
After that delicious start, a few of Casa Ora’s dishes got bogged down in too-similar flavor profiles, making it redundant to share plates, even if they were individually pleasant. For example, the hallaca ($12), pork tamal with chickpeas, could’ve used more olives for some extra dimension. The bollitos pelones ($14), which are corn dumplings stuffed with ground beef in a tomato sauce, lacked a strong taste of its component ingredients. But some plates do stand out, such as the pabellón ($26), an elevation of the traditional Venezualen rice and beans with shredded pork, here as a slab of brisket. Next to that generous portion is