It's not atypical for restaurants to change ownership. It is, however, unusual for restaurants to leave most of the previous furnishings and menu items in place after such a change takes effect. Such is the case with Rincon Escondido, Edgewater's hidden Spanish gem.
Though Rincon Escondido has been serving authentic Spanish tapas since 2011, its new Argentine owner has planted some of his roots in the menu. There's still gazpacho and gambas al ajillo (which have been left pretty much untouched), but meatballs have an Argentine twist in the sauce, and for dessert, choco tarta has the consistency of an alfajor but with layers of chocolate.
Damian Rodriguez always worked in restaurants with the hope of one day owning one. He is by no means a classically trained chef, nor does he try to be one. What he does possess, however, is a knack for effortlessly hosting people and making them feel at home. On several occasions, I've witnessed him talking to customers for hours on end about everything from backpacking through Argentina to his newborn baby and lack of sleep.
When he had the chance to take over the quaint locale, Rodriguez didn't think twice. It was just the perfect size for what he wanted to do, which was to give patrons a focused and intimate experience. It begins as he pours you a glass of sangria and ends with him walking you outside after you've had your fill of tapas.
If you've ever been to Rincon Escondido, you'll notice minimal differences in the arrangement of the interior. Rodriguez has modified it a bit to make it more spacious, but it's still a sliver of a space. This is the kind of place you go on a first date because it's affordable but charming.
To run the kitchen, he's hired Laura Alzuri. The chef's specialty is Spanish cuisine. Hiding behind a chalkboard, checkered curtains, and a wall of pots and pans, she rings a bell when the food is ready. It's Rodriguez's cue to stop entertaining and start serving.
"We left a lot of the menu, but Alzuri really made it her own by infusing the flavors," Rodriguez explains. "There were some dishes we felt we're missing a little sazón, and we've added that."
Potatoes with aioli are a free welcoming touch. The amuse-bouche depends upon the night.
Gambas al ajillo ($13) are a prime example of the sazón the new chef has added. Shrimp sautéed in lots of garlic, red crushed red pepper, and white wine sizzled with an abundance of flavor.
The gazpacho andaluz ($10) isn't my mom's, but it has a nice balance and texture.
My favorite dish here is probably the sautéed mushrooms and onions with sherry and wine ($10), which are extremely flavorful and cooked perfectly. You'll want to sop up the remaining juices with a nice piece of Spanish bread.
Octopus is extremely Spanish, and here you can have it two ways. Go the traditional route with pulpo a la gallega, or take a different approach with grilled octopus tentacles ($16). The latter is seasoned with muscatel vinegar, olive oil, and parsley and is served alongside rice mixed with tomatoes and onions.
Another winner, and perhaps a more Americanized dish, is the bombas de queso, or cheese bombs. This, by the way, is coming from someone who isn't very cheesy. But there's really nothing not to love about these golden spheres filled with goat cheese that explode in your mouth and are served with orange blossom honey ($9).
"Albondigas are traditionally Spanish," Lazuri says. "But ours aren't traditional." These balls are tender and mushy and sauced up in a special recipe that includes tomato, onion, peppers, and other secret condiments. ($10)
Montadito rata with burrata, truffle, and topped with jamón serrano ($10).
Argentine dishes include choripan Rincon Escondido ($10); provoleta ($10); spinach, beef and ricotta canneloni ($14); chicken or steak milanesa ($16); and empanadas ($8).
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For dessert, you can go the Spanish route and get the house-made flan ($8).
Or try the chocotorta, which is the Argentine version of chocolate cake ($8).
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha