The origins of tapas were likely practical: a slice of bread or meat used to protect a drink from insects (the verb tapar means “to cover”). From these humble beginnings the Spanish snacks evolved into classics such as the frittata-like tortilla to patatas bravas (fried potatoes) to bacalao (salted cod).
Hector Ruiz, chef/owner of Café Ena, pushes the tapas concept even further at his newest restaurant, Rincón 38, located at the corner, or rincón, of 38th and Grand in Minneapolis. Here you’ll find cannoli—yes, that’s right, the Italian pasta tubes. They’re filled with a creamy blend of lobster, crab, and fresh cheese, flavored with a hint of truffle. There’s also a savory flan: eggy custard studded with smoked salmon and mushrooms, served atop a bright asparagus purée. It’s flavorful, complex, and elegant. Most things on the menu are, actually—as well as fussier than most traditional tapas, with their microgreen garnishes, multiple sauces, and contrasting sweet/savory flavor profiles. The approach reminds me of sushi joints with a more flamboyant style, embellishing their fish-and-rice rolls with the tempura flakes and spicy mayonnaise that purists find disgraceful, but many others love.
Rincón’s menu is larger than you’d expect for a neighborhood restaurant, but overlapping ingredients make things more manageable for the kitchen. The tender braised octopus, for example, is served on a bed of patatas bravas, so your server will alert you to the similarity if you try to select both. A few more ordering tips: for the budget-conscious, the crock of meatballs in saffron-tomato broth is a bargain at $5, while a single roasted piquillo pepper stuffed with goat cheese makes for a spendy $7 bite.
Tentative diners should try the fried manchego cheese. Daring ones can get the sardines.
3801 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis