Where can you get Yucatecan specialties little known outside the region, including a special mole sent over by the chef's mother-in-law? Why, Santa Rosa! El Rinconcito Yucateco has been open for about six months now, and it offers a delicious taste of home-style cooking from the Yucatán.
The number one must-try is relleno negro. Note: It has absolutely no relation to chiles rellenos or mole negro. It's a chicken soup flavored with a Yucatecan mole (this is where the chef's MIL comes in) that contains chicken and a giant meatball that includes hard-boiled egg. "That dark broth was rich-tasting and delicious and got hotter toward the bottom of the bowl," says Mick Ruthven. "The addition of habaneros that we discovered on the bottom of the bowl releasing their floral verve and heat to the broth as it steeped took this one over the top," adds Melanie Wong, who says this was her favorite dish of the meal.
For perspective, El Rinconcito Yucateco offers home-style fare rather than the alta cocina of San Francisco's Poc Chuc, Melanie says. "El Rinconcito Yucateco’s cooking is bolder with the flavors turned up a notch using more habanero chiles (yay!), salt, fat, and other seasonings for a bigger and more robust palate impression." Also, the antojitos (three for $6.95) are 30 to 50 percent larger than in SF, Melanie estimates, and a platillo costs only $9.95.
Cochinita pibil is melt-in-your-mouth porky goodness, says Jeni Bean. "The achiote seasoning is just so smoky and slightly sweet it really lends this slowly cooked pork a wonderful flavor." The "soft, almost jelly-like skin" also soaks up the seasonings and the scent of the banana leaves that the meat is cooked in, Melanie notes.
Escabeche, another chicken soup, is also fantastic. "This, ladies and gentleman, is what all chicken soups aspire to be," declares Jeni Bean. Poc chuc, charbroiled pork, is kind of dry but elevated by a vibrant, habanero-spiked slaw.
The antojitos are good, especially the empanadas with cheese, panuchos, and tamales. And the house-made chips are great, especially with the roasted-tomato salsa. The owner makes a fabulous habanero salsa fresh daily, says snarkygirl. Plus, pretty much any Yucatecan specialty can be whipped up if you request it in advance.
El Rinconcito Yucateco [Sonoma County]
3935 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa
No phone available