A leisurely southerly west coast span of time
4354 Melrose Ave. (just east of the 101)
Phone: 323-666-6075 | map
It's fairly difficult to find Chilean cuisine even in this hypermulticultural mecca, so I'm pleasantly surprised to find this place within a couple miles of me, something I've driven by hundreds of times.
This restaurant and deli have been sitting quietly at the corner of Heliotrope and Melrose before anyone started trying to make the area hip.
The interior is homelike and often nearly deserted. Some lazy watching of the current football match may be in progress. The music can be soft-voiced Spanish crooners, but can also be, um... Go Country 105. Despite the photos and artifacts of Chile, one is (sometimes wincingly) inundated with Toby Keith, Alan Jackson and Big & Rich.
Ponder this as you dive into the thick roll they bring you, with either a pat of butter or a spoon of pebre, a mean little green sauce similar to Argentinian chimichurri, cilantro-heavy with a nice nasal onion sting.
Chile hugs Argentina on its right hip, so it's no surprise that some culinary similarities exist. If Rincon Chileno's ability with meat pies is representative of Chile, then Argentina has serious competition. I try a spinach empanada; the shell is ultra-crispy, glowing yellow and brown, layered rather than flaky. Once past the villainous heat level, there is spinach, chopped fine and melding beautifully with long strings of white cheese. It is superb, easily the best spinach empanada I've ever tasted.
The Churrasco de Pollo is a powerpacked little sandwich. Strips of chicken are grilled perfectly, browned and stiffened outside, tender inside, cooled by fresh tomato and avocado crushed almost into guacamole. This comes on french bread, amasado (a dense, scored roll not entirely unlike ciabatta), or hallulla (pronounced ayu-ya, hard-baked and pitted like a biscuit).
The sandwich comes with super-crispy french fries, with which you can't insult me. They benefit both from ketchup (the waitstaff sees I am a gringo and places a bottle on the table) and occasional dips into the pebre.
Move past the lunchtime sandwiches to see Rincon Chileno's kitchen shine. The Filete de Pescado a la Meunniere is a baked fillet of whitefish swimming in a mild lemon garlic sauce, achingly tender. You can get it fried for the nicely rendered crunch, but this gentle slab of fish rings of perfection.
It has a small tin of warmed garlic dipping sauce that has more citrusy bite, but it is almost unneeded because of the succulence of the fish. A steaming mound of white rice helps to soak up the flavorful juices, and three small slices of astoundingly red tomatoes sit aside, dusted with parsley. I still apply pebre here and there.
There is peril. If you aren't careful--note the consumption of bread, empanada, french fries and sandwich here--the resulting carb coma will have you in its starchy manacles and unable to function for the remainder of the day except for yawns and hand waves and weak little whines. Your slide into sleepiness is exacerbated by the fact that it may take a while for them to deliver the bill.
Rincon Chileno is open 10 to 10 daily. Plenty of street parking with meters that blink and say FAIL is nearby. There's also a Rincon Chileno on Hawthorne in Lawndale, but I'm unsure of its relation.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Deli, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, Seafood, Mid-City/Koreatown, Chilean )