Opened nearly five months ago by Emilio Fontan and his brother, Biscayne's nightmare construction along 26 Street didn't deter the Fontan's from serving their Spanish fusion food to passer-byes who came usually on foot due to the road block.
"Hidden Corner," the meaning of Rincon Escondido reminds one customer of NYC's famous Meat Packing district. "It's like a secret," says the customer in his mid-twenties, "like you should knock on a mysterious door in the middle of a narrow alley and say the correct password to be let in."
The secret is out. Fontan, who spent most of his life in Madrid and then moved to NYC, now resides and operates in Miami. He describes himself as a "proud American" and compares himself to Lenny Kravitz as he shares his background of a black mother and a Jewish father.
The country feel of Rincon Escondido gives way to white floral curtains,
a tree bench, and hanging empty glass water jugs that you might imagine
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to be filled with fresh lemonade on a red and white checkered blanket
at a picnic.
Vinyl record albums encase the surface of a long rectangular ceiling air-conditioning vent, giving the restaurant an edgy hip feel. Gloria Estefan's "Si Señor" tunes offer smiles and head-bobbing around the table of our group of four.
We had seven dishes in total, prepared by Chef Jose Meza. Chicken Liver Pate with Apples ($5) was savory but pear slices might have been a more succulent alternative to the tart apples. Our second dish was a surprise favorite, anchovies with brunoised vegetables ($7) offered meaty strips of the silver fish with no added salt.
The smoked Norwegian salmon with black caviar and cucumber ($8) was tolerable, but the pickled taste of the thinly sliced cucumbers did not compliment the dish, and the caviar offered too strong of what was supposed to be a gentle taste.
The filet mignon carpaccio with manchego cheese and fresh artichokes ($8) was pleasing to the eyes, but bland in flavor as the raw meat was a bit less than tender and the artichokes were sparse. We were suggested to pair our fare with a Ribera del Duero but we opted for bottled passion fruit and pear juice instead as we're not used to indulging in wine at noon -- we're Americans after all!
As a second round of food comes our way, Fontan shows off his neatly stacked display of preserved whole fruit atop a display that's reminiscent of grandparents' pantry; the wearing chipped and faded paint on surrounding cabinets reminds us once again of Escondido's genuine vintage feel.
Gourmet additions to the menu like chipirones en su tinta, or baby calamari in black ink get our nod of approval because, like all the rest of the fishy finger-foods in the Enlatados Gourmet category, a friendly $5 price tag modestly follows.
Sandwiches were next. The sauteed chicken breast with roasted red peppers and spicy aioli ($7) left us licking our fingers for more, but the next dish, roasted pastrami with dijon mustard and cucumber in vinegar ($8) left us skeptical of the meat. It was not pink and tender, like pastrami, but flaky, brown and dry. Three out of four of us found it to be our least favorite.
With full bellies it was hard to pick up the last sandwich, but we're glad we did: the roasted pork leg with Galician Tetilla cheese and red piquillo peppers ($9) proved to be the favorite, as the firm baguette bread soaked up the fusion of flavors.
Fontan treated us with with juice of the Gods, chilled Osborne Sweet Sherry which hit us with explosions of plump raisins, ripe figs and nutty caramel. The perfect ending.
When asking Fontan what he was trying to accomplish with his creative old-world funky fusions he automatically replied, "One world, one love." His message matched up perfectly with Bob Marley's harmonies playing in Rincon Escondido.