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Thursday, December 27,2012

A new South American corner in Boulder

By Clay Fong

Rincon Argentino, which opened just this past fall, has brought the seldom-seen (at least around here) cuisine of Argentina to a friendly and accessible venue. Argentine fare has many parents, including the food of indigenous peoples and European settlers as well as a deep, romantic tradition of cattle ranching.

The menu here features hot sandwiches and numerous empanadas, along with simple side salads. Ingredients are sourced locally where possible, and come from such purveyors as Udi’s and Colorado’s Best Beef. An alliterative Argentine selection of beverages include Malbec wine and mate, potent caffeinated rainforest tea served with traditional biscuits. One gets a sense that many of these offerings would be considered authentic street food, an impression reinforced by the order-at-the-counter service and prompt arrival of items.

Friend Paul and I decided to split a sandwich and a quartet of empanadas.

A lomito is the archetypical Argentine steak sandwich, a tribute to both that nation’s unadulterated appetite for beef as well as a formidable repast suitable for grab-and-go refueling. Rincon offers two versions, the first being the more elemental solo, a $9.50 item consisting of thin-sliced steak garnished with lettuce and tomato. We decided to divvy up the completo, which also included ham and mozzarella for a substantial $11.

The sandwich arrived plenty hot, with the cheese taking on an endearingly gooey consistency. Including a thin slice of ham seemed a bit like gilding the lily, although the bread endeared itself with a winning balance of chew and crust. Beef, the centerpiece ingredient, definitely had a meaty savor. But some might second-guess the thickness (more than a cheesesteak, less than a regular steak) and well-done preparation, which made matters a bit chewier than one might prefer. However, the recommended chimichurri sauce, a staple blend of herbs and olive oil, added lively bite and tang.

A quartet of $2.95 empanadas comprised the second act of our meal. Our meat selections included chicken chorizo, steak and spicy steak. While the sandwich was perfectly satisfying, we both felt the empanadas were the restaurant’s strong suit. Right off the bat, we noted the wonderful flaky qualities of the layered pastry enveloping the fillings. The short duration it took to travel from oven to plate was likely the key factor; one suspects the experience wouldn’t be as compelling once things cooled down.

The spicy steak was our consensus favorite, albeit for an unexpected reason. Paul and I agreed it was much like the Aristotelian ideal of a pot pie, if the philosopher had concerned himself with such matters. “Swanson’s,” said Paul, but not pejoratively, as he referred to the comforting qualities of the moist, tender steak with its mix of bell pepper, onion and olive.

The vegetarian Patagonia differed from the other empanadas by dint of its meatless filling and open-faced nature. A mix of garlic, onion and cherry tomato, the flavors were remarkably fresh. Bright and tangy, these ingredients combined to create a memorable filling reminiscent of a fine Italian marinara sauce.

Rincon Argentino is a welcome new entry to the local ethnic dining scene. Fresh flavors and quality ingredients combine to make a fine introduction to a cuisine that’s underrepresented locally. While not inexpensive, the steak sandwich was fine, but the empanadas take top honors.

Rincon Argentino is located at 2525 Arapahoe Ave. Suite #A05 in Boulder. Call 303-442-4133.

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