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Thursday, December 3,2009

Rincon Del Sol can become a vice

By Clay Fong

"I’ m guessing you were a big Miami Vice fan,” said colleague Carin over lunch at Boulder’s Rincon Del Sol. “You’re absolutely right,” I replied, recalling that series’ mix of dynamic visuals, dramatic spice, and a bit of cheese, courtesy of Don Johnson’s formidable thespian talents. A certain degree of predictability also contributed to my enjoyment of this show; you could always count on the shoot-out before the percussive title credits, the obligatory rock star cameo, and a Ferrari chase thrown in for good measure.

Oddly enough, what made me relish this pop culture relic was pretty darn similar to the enjoyable attributes of Rincon Del Sol. Hewing to the contours of the classic California-style Mexican restaurant, this brightly colored and folk artfestooned eatery offers up a textbook combo plate menu, as well as seafood specialties. There’s also a menu of burritos as well as sizzling fajita platters.

Akin to the familiar Vice opening credits, our meal began with the expected complimentary chips and salsa. The tomato-based salsa was better than most, with a bouquet of fresh cilantro and smoky peppers (dramatic spice, anyone?), revealing more than a hint of chipotle. An equally satisfying accompaniment was the rich and smooth bean dip, which when combined with the thin, crisp and warm chips, could serve as a standalone meal.

While there are several lunch combination specials available for well under a 10-spot, Carin and I made like a couple of cash-flush Vice villains and ordered up two of the priciest combination plates. I went for my usual Mexican restaurant benchmark dish, the $15.99 Tampiqueña. By definition a slab of carne asada sided with an enchilada, this is a selection that you’re as likely to find in Mexico as you are in the United States.

Delivered by our professionally lowkey server, this was a more than satisfactory option. The enchilada stood out from others by virtue of its complex mole sauce, balancing chocolate and spice. Hearty chunks of chicken, as opposed to the usual feeble shreds, also lent depth to this south of the border workhorse. A side of refried beans was properly creamy and liberally sprinkled with queso, as opposed to Johnsonian cheese. Carne asada, the other star attraction, was chewy, as restaurant versions of this dish tend to be. On the plus side, it possessed a rich steak flavor, which was nicely complemented by grilled green onion.

Carin’s grandly named $20.99 Tour of Mexico was similar to my platter, albeit larger with the addition of shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce. The shrimp were chunky specimens, undermined by a mealy texture. While the sauce possessed a fair but not overwhelming degree of pepper, Carin felt the flavor veered too closely into ketchup territory. Nevertheless, she enjoyed the asada and enchilada, and had enough left over for dinner.

Pricing our premium combination plates for less might be more in line with comparable local restaurants. However, the lunch special combo plates, with their archetypical tacos and enchiladas, as well as less frequently encountered choices such as arroz con pollo, should satisfy a diner’s need for economy. Where Rincon Del Sol undoubtedly shines is with its delivery of a California-style Mexican experience, as comfortingly predictable as a Miami Vice episode.

Clay’s Obscurity Corner: Today’s stars on Miami Vice

Many remember Miami Vice for its cameos of such pop stars as Phil Collins and Glenn Frey. Today, however, more pleasure is derived from watching the show to see several nowfamous actors in early minor roles. Nearly half the cast of Pulp Fiction showed up on Vice, including a pre-Moonlighting Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Paul Calderon and Steve Buscemi. Foreign film fans will note appearances by Lothaire Bluteau, star of Jesus of Montreal and Black Robe, and Like Water for Chocolate director Alfonso Arau. But arguably the greatest cameo was that of singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen as a French intelligence operative.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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