We love Colombian food. Like, really, really love it. That is why it annoys us when a Colombian restaurant decides to put on airs. Colombian cuisine is made of simple and unpretentious stuff--eggs, corn, beans, and so forth; there is no need to fancy it up. It is perfect.
Rincon Antioqueño, a little dive on SW Eighth Street, understands this. The paint on the sign outside is so faded that you can barely identify the red, blue, and yellow. And the interior seems to double as a flea market. There are T-shirts, tote bags, flags, and toys for sale.
Con Sabor a Cafe in Kendall on the other hand is sterile, clean, immaculate and uncluttered. The pristine environment does not hint as to any ethnicity; you could be anywhere.
Both of these restaurants serve Colombian food, but they do it very differently:
At Rincon, the service is slow. Reeeeal slow. You will wait on your drinks, on your appetizers, on your food, on your dessert, and on your bill. While the servers are friendly, it is obvious that you are not their top priority.
The service at Sabor is magnificent. The owner served us (without knowing we were writing a review). You can tell she takes pride in her country's food--she gives detailed descriptions of each dish and even gives samples of Columbian drinks not commonly served in Miami.
Sabor is definitely pricier than Rincon, astounding us when we received a bill for $85. It does, however, offer a handful of well-priced daily specials and two daily soups free of charge as long as you order an entrée. Although, the free soup seems like a consolation prize when you see the dismal portions of food and the exorbitant amount of your bill.
Rincon hurt us significantly less, coming out to less than fifty bucks for a party of four, and we ordered plenty of antojitos (literally translates to 'small cravings') like empanadas and pan de bonos (cheese bread). We had plenty to eat and take home, plus dessert. Also, Rincon makes pan de bonos that dwarf others of its kind.
Overall, you really get your peso's worth at Rincon Antioqueño. At Sabor con Cafe, not so much.
The disparity between these two restaurants is never more glaring than when your mouth is full of food. There are certain items that are equal, such as white rice and fried plantains (which are excellent and perfectly cooked at both restaurants). But as far as the appetizers, meats, and beans go, the food could be from two different countries--Yuck and Yum.
We ordered the signature dish of every Colombian restaurant: the bandeja paisa. There may be slight variations depending on the restaurant, but the plate usually contains a fried egg on top of white rice, red beans, steak or ground beef, chicharrón (a strip of fried pork belly), an arepa (a type of bread made from white corn) and fried plantains. The bandeja at both Sabor and Rincon included these items, but Rincon adds a link of Colombian sausage and allows you to switch the flavorless arepa for a patacon, a fried green plantain.
Before we continue, we have to say that the patacones at Sabor are undoubtedly superior to any fried green plantain we've had except for home. They are perfectly thin and crispy and just starting to ripen and turn sweet, giving you a wonderful juxtaposition of flavors when you add salt.
Now that the good is out of the way, let's talk about the bad and the ugly. The beans at Sabor are canned, which according to the owner is a good thing. They are apparently a very popular brand of beans that Colombians find de rigeur. We do not. And unlike Rincon, which serves multiple pieces of delicious carne asada (thin Colombian steak) in its bandeja, Sabor shamelessly serves a scrawny, unseasoned, tough little steak that tastes more like a chancleta (flip-flop). We are ravenous carnivores and we could not swallow (much less chew) this rubbery, tough excuse for meat.
Here we have a tie. We also have to be eternally grateful to the owner of Sabor for introducing us to what has become
an obsession our new favorite dessert--postre de natas. Made from milk curds, postre de natas is a semi-sweet, slightly creamy substance that tricks your brain into thinking that you're having an orgasm. This is from someone who has the complete opposite of a sweet tooth and orders dessert about once every three months. Mere words cannot do this postre justice. Even packaged, as it is usually served, this dessert is ridiculously good. We have heard that there are versions which include cinnamon and raisins--why would anyone mess with perfection?
For its portion sizes, food, and prices, Rincon Antioqueño wins.
6521 SW 8 Street, Miami
Con Sabor a Cafe mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA">9558 SW 137 Avenue
mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US;
mso-fareast-language:EN-US;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA">9558 SW 137 Avenue, Miami