And two main courses, goat tarkari and oxtail La Hacienda, were comparable to dishes from the aforementioned islands. The two stewlike main courses were replete with chunks of meat sagging off the bones into the rich gravy. Both the goat and oxtail were superb, differing only in terms of the slight curried flavor of the goat. Accompaniments of yellow rice and fried plantains made these hefty portions even larger.
Tequenitos was the only dish I didn't recognize. Purely Venezuelan, the appetizer consisted of sticks of baked dough filled with queso blanco. The cheese oozed out of the tequenitos with every bite. We weren't as surprised by the rice pudding, a somewhat expected sweet. Still, we found it an excellent version, the grains of rice unified with cream and cinnamon.
Venezuela may have what Ortiz calls "a small cuisine," meaning that it isn't very unique. But at La Hacienda, the cuisine is made large by the thoughtfulness with which it's prepared. Thoughtful, too, are the owners, who come around to see how patrons are enjoying the fare.
Let's hope another hurricane won't be coming around too soon. Storms like Georges might just convince the owners it's time once again to pull up stakes and move north. Next stop: Palm Beach County.
La Hacienda. 11252 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines, 954-443-0955. Lunch and dinner daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m; Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.