Provecho Bistro Latino, An El Rancho Grande Spin-Off

Provecho Bistro Latino opened its doors on 15th Street off of Alton Road a few months ago (in the space where Cha Cha Cha Cafe performed a rather short dance). It attracted little notice in the local food media, surprising because it comes from the same owners as El Rancho Grande, the long time Mexican restaurant on South Beach (now on 72nd Street in the Normandy Isles neighborhood). I've had breakfast and lunch at Provecho so far, and this much I can say: The Rancho folks do a better job with Latin American cuisine than they do with Mexican fare.

The breakfast I tried, huevos rancheros, is, um, Mexican -- yet it's not only tasty but a real good deal. A pair of fried corn tortillas are topped with fried eggs, tomato-chile sauce, white cheese, sliced avocado and bacon. The price, $7, includes a cup of Colombian coffee and milk.

Eight appetizers ($1.75 to $8) include a very flavorful fried beef empanada Colombiana (the owners are from Colombia), the crunchy corn wrap encasing minced meat ($1.75); it comes with a garlic-cilantro dip. Arepa con queso is a pancake-size rendition topped with savorily cooked shreds of pulled chicken (beef is also available) -- delicious, although there isn't much cheese ($3.50). Diners may also opt to start with fried plantain topped with guacamole and ceviche; yucca poppers stuffed with jalapeño and cheese; and shrimp cocktail.

I plucked from among the fifteen entrees ropa vieja and bistec de palomilla. The latter is a thin, wide, well-seasoned Cuban-style steak ($12), tossed quickly on the griddle and topped with sauteed onions -- a solid and traditional rendition. The ropa vieja ($11.50) was even better, the shreds of skirt steak bursting with delicious flavor from being cooked with onions, peppers, tomatoes and spices. All mains come with choice of two sides from among soft, cleanly fried yucca sticks, regular fries, tostones, moros, and maduros with cheese and cream. These sides run from $2 to $3.50 if purchased a la carte.

Other main courses include Argentine-style skirt steak entraña with chimichurri; beef, chicken, or shrimp mofongo; tacos de carne asada; pork chunks; grilled pork chops; shrimp in garlic sauce; and breaded steak milanesa. Price range is $7.75 to $14.

I didn't sample any soups -- have to save some stuff for my return -- but Provecho proffers chicken soup, caldo de res (beef soup), lentil soup and cream of corn ($3.50 to $4.50). Flan, tres leches, and rice pudding are the desserts ($3.50). The space is clean, modern, and pretty, the workers are friendly, takeout and delivery are offered. It's a great addition to the neighborhood. There aren't that many seats, so you may want to head there before too many people find out about it.

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