I have an odd theory: Given a geographical location, there is a cuisine that acts as a bully to the other close-by cuisines. OK, that was a bit strange so let’s try again with an example: In Chinese cuisine, Cantonese dishes are better known that Hakka, Szechuan, Fujian, Beijing and so on. Likewise, in Europe, French and Italian are better known that Spanish, Portuguese, German and so on. In the case of Latin America, Mexican is better known than the rest.
In a way, it is a mixed blessing. In some places, that cuisine is somewhat similar with a different twist so, basically, is almost the same. However, it is also bad because you don’t get to know that other cuisine exist and, hence, the chance you might end up completely missing the opportunity to try something different. In a way, this is what I think occurs with this restaurant, Rinconcito Salvadoreño, which, as the name might suggest, hails from El Salvador.
When I walked in, I think I had that feeling similar to those in the western movies. You know, when a character walks into a cantina, music stops and everybody looks at you? I mean, a Chinese person in a restaurant whose main target is Latin American? Anyway, I was promptly seated and given the menu. Now, the restaurant itself does not only serve Salvadorian (sp?) cuisine but also Mexican. Now, I was not interested in any Mexican dish, instead a more Salvadorian dish: pupusas. The best way to describe it would be a corn flour dough, filled with, well, fillings, and then flatten and cooked in a griddle. Chinese pancake would be a similar dish (an apperance) though, because the dough has a softer consistency, it is not as “tough”. Having said that, I skipped the whole menu and went for the items in this page:
(To Spanish speakers, unless El Salvador has its own unique spelling variations, the way it is written is quite… Odd…)
I ordered three of these: one “Revuelta” (aka mixed), one Chicharrón and one Frijol y Queso. For drinks, I ordered a tamarind drink ($2.50):
This reminds me of chicha (no, not the fermented alcoholic drink), rather a sweetened (sometimes a little bit too sweet) drink with flavouring, not necessarily juice, though. It was refreshing but nothing to rave about.
Now, I knew these will take a while as they are made to order so, in the meantime, I looked around and a snapshot of the restaurant itself:
During this time (easily 10 minutes), several couple of customers walked in, including a couple of take-outs – most of them Spanish speakers. At this point, I was convinced of something: Authenticity was not going to be an issue… (As a side note, I have eaten pupusa before, made by the Salvadorian mother of sister friends. Hi Lorena, Patty!).
And finally, the food arrived…
A close-up of the pupusa. I “teared” one of them a little bit so you can observe the “inside”.
Yes, that’s a plastic plate… The usual side dish is curtido, a pickled-like coleslaw. It was a good thing they leave a lot of the napkins on the tables because eating them is slightly tricky. First, you take some of the coleslaw and put them on top of the pupusa. Then, drizzle some of the salsa, fold it and eat it in a similar way you would eat a taco. However, because they are made to order, these are really hot (temperature-wise) and some of the salsa might drizzle out, so chances they will make a small mess.
So, how was it? I will have to say they were quite good, with the caveat it is not too savoury and its flavours were not as complex as other cuisines. Still, it is good on its own way. So, if you are looking for Latin American cuisine and do not want Mexican, El Rinconcito Salvadoreño is a really good option. (On that note, another customer ordered what seems to be a full-sized fried fish. I think that something I will have to order some other time!). Will come back.