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Antigua, GT: El Rincon del Conquistador – Two words: Caracol soup

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It is fabulous. This elegant, flavorful soup was my top taste of 2010
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/756481

While this restaurant bills itself as French or European, a look at the menu indicates the dishes are contemporary Guatemalan or perhaps French with Guatemalan influences creatively using local ingredients.

Here's what I had rated from A+ to F -
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/737141

B + … Amuse buche of vegetable soup and sliced French bread with pate
B …... Complementary roll with butter
A …...Caracoles en la crema de ajo
B + … Duck breast with mora sauce, sautéed apples and potatoes
A - … Rosemary peach crumble with grapefruit coulis
B + … Cappuccino
B …... Wine and champagne

Service: B + … Very, very good
Ambiance: B + … Very, very good
Price: $$$

Restaurant record with more info such as address, phone, hours and menu
http://www.chow.com/restaurants/918247

Flickr photostream with more pictures
http://www.flickr.com/photos/7685047@...

Details in first reply.

 
 
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  1. EL RINCON DEL CONQUISTADOR DETAILS

    AMUSE BUCHE: B + … Very, very good

    In addition to being a pleasant surprise and the only amuse buche I’ve been served in Guatemala, it was nicely done. The small glass of broccoli soup was deeply flavorful. The slices of baguette were topped with classic French pate and a creamy vegetable spread that complimented the soup perfectly.

    COMPLEMENTARY ROLL WITH BUTTER: B … Above average

    A toasted yeasty roll was served with a pat of Anchor butter. I don’t quite understand the Guatemalan passion for over-toasting plain white rolls. This roll was lightly toasted bringing out the flavor and adding a crisp texture.

    CARACOLES EN LA CREMA DE AJO: A … Exceptional

    A dozen plump caracoles were in a lovely elegant cream soup subtly flavored with bright fresh herbs.

    Caracoles are snails. Whether these were escargot or sea snails I’m not clear. Usually French restaurants in Guatemala use the word “escargot”. Caracoles are sea snails used in ceviche and are on the chewy side. These were as tender as butter. Whatever type of snail, it was the best I’ve had anywhere.

    DUCK BREAST, MORA SAUCE, APPLES, POTATOES: B + … Very, very good

    This was such a good combination, each element full of flavor on its own, but working so well together that it elevated the dish to the next level. Moras are local blackberries and are one of my favorite fruits in Guatemala. The sweet/tart sauce was an excellent match for the tender duck.

    The potato and apple wedges sautéed in butter added richness to the dish without overwhelming it.

    ROSEMARY PEACH CRUMBLE WITH GRAPEFRUIT COULIS: A - … Way above average

    This is listed on the menu as “crumble de fruitas según mercado”. That is, seasonal fruit from the market. Peaches were at the peak of the season on my visit.

    The peach slices were sautéed and then flambéed with honey. The dessert was layered with contrasting tastes and textures. The whipped cream adding silky, soft sweetness, the grapefruit a tart touch, homemade ground cookies had crunch and the dessert was brought together with the warmth of fresh rosemary.

    CAPPUCCINO: B + … Very, very good

    There was a nice presentation in a stylish cup. The foam was light and lovely. The espresso was bold, deep and rich.

    WINE AND CHAMPAGNE: B … Above average

    This restaurant has a more extensive wine list than most and a staff that knows how to pair it with dishes. I’m not a wine expert but let the restaurant make the selections which enhanced all the dishes. I had two glass of the champagne it was so good.

    SERVICE: B + … Very, very good

    Staff members spoke English and went out of their way to tell me how the dessert was made and what was in it. They were very good about answering questions. The service was polished and welcoming.

    AMBIANCE: B + … Very, very good

    This is a pretty restaurant with a nice garden. However, it might have moved. I’ll include the photos of from my visit. The website mentions going back to their roots, but I’m not sure if they mean the original menu concept or physically they moved. I’ll update this post as I get information.

    OVERALL

    This is definitely a restaurant I would return to. They recently catered the 2nd Annual Carnival Ball and do lots of events such as weddings.

    It is a restaurant that has an odd niche. In my hometown of SF, people would be flocking to it. Guatemalans, however, are not so open to new cuisine and creativity. The location where I ate, was a little off the main tourist stomping grounds so not as likely to catch the eyes of tourists who would appreciate the creativity in the kitchen.

    There was a different concept when the restaurant opened, but they couldn’t translate that to the local culture. So hours were cut and currently the restaurant is open only for dinner and on Sunday for lunch, with the majority of business from events.

    I can only recommend giving the number a call, finding out when they are open and definitely ordering that carocal soup for a memorable dining experience in Guatemala.

    I put off writing about El Rincon because I wanted to do it justice and save the best restaurants I tried for last. That was a mistake.

    It is not that I expect this little buried report to drive hoards of customers there. However, if I can convince even one person to stop by, maybe they will pass the word to others …

    This isn’t an easy restaurant to lure either locals or visitors. For locals, it is not the norm. For visitors, it is one of those hidden gems that doesn’t get the hype or attention from being centrally located or having a big advertising budget.

    I just know I loved my lunch there and it was one of the better meals I had in Guatemala. It is worth seeking out, in my opinion.

     
     
     
     
     
     
    3 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Are they still at that same location? I thought I had heard that they moved from downtown. Used to love the upstairs bar; great place to hang out.

      ETA: Okay. Now I'm really confused. It looks as though the map on your restaurant record link is of Guatemala City, not Antigua, no? And perhaps 7a Av Sur *is* the new location; I think they used to be near the arc on 5a Norte.

      1. re: JoanN

        I'm not quite clear if they moved. I'm going to try to check it out the next time I'm in Antigua.

        1. re: rworange

          See my edit above. It may well be that the address you have listed *is* the new location.

    2. UPDATE as of April 2012

      Not sure just where El Rincon was located when RWO wrote her review, but as of a year ago it moved back to it's original location at Plazuela del Conquistador on the road to Ciudad Vieja. It is open for lunch on Saturday and Sunday and for dinner on Friday and Saturday. If the menu was contemporary Guatemalan before, it's pretty much straight French these days and Guatemalan only in it's use of fresh, local ingredients. It's a fairly long walk from town, so you'd probably want to take a taxi or a tuk-tuk, although one of the owners told me that next time I want to come I should just give him a call and he'd come pick me up.

      RWO was right. The caracol soup was spectacular. And so was the rack of lamb, charred on the outside, perfectly medium-rare on the inside, and juicy and flavorful as one could hope for. My friend had excellent scallops with a cauliflower puree as a starter and a gorgeous hunk of what we'd probably call salmon trout. My friend ordered a fruit crumble for dessert, but they ended up bringing us a dessert sampler with a minty tapioca pudding, chocolate mousse, a chocolate-sauced profiterole, and some kind of chocolaty/Kaluha tasting drink in a shot glass. They had a very nice looking wine list, but just one white and one red by the glass. Both were good, but not as good as the food deserved.

      El Rincon del Conquistador is among the very best restaurants in Antigua. The ambience isn't as charming as some places, but the excellence of both the food and the service more than makes up for it.

      So glad I finally got here; so sorry it took me so long.