El Rincon Jarocho is not the only restaurant painted turquoise that you’ll pass on Seminary Drive. But, it is the only one featuring that happy, purple octopus in its signage.
Chef and owner Santiago Bejarano runs the restaurant along with his wife, Veronica Jimenez. They celebrated two years of business in March. Bejarano owned three similar restaurants in Veracruz, Mexico, before drug cartels took over the area, confiscating private property (including his home and all three of his restaurants) and forcing most honest business owners to move out.
He came to America with nothing and started over from scratch. Santiago and Veronica met and married here in Fort Worth. Both immigrated from Veracruz — which was founded by Spanish settlers in the 16th century and remains one of Mexico’s oldest and largest port cities. So, seafood is the main focus of the menu at El Rincon Jarocho.
“Opening a restaurant again, has been my husband’s main goal. We started our business two years ago by selling authentic Veracruz-style shrimp cocktail out of our car, just to gain a following,” Veronica Jimenez says. So, that was the perfect place to start.
The coctel de camaron ($13.99) is an ample shrimp cocktail appetizer. The chilled schooner is brimming with large tail-on, cocktail shrimp in a tangy and slightly sweet sauce. The spices in the sauce are unique. I had never tasted anything like it. When you go fishing in this shrimp cocktail don’t be surprised to find 15 or more. The dish is topped by diced red onion, fresh cilantro, avocado chunks with a lime slice and shrimp decorating the rim of the glass.
This standard shrimp cocktail comes in two other varieties as well: coctel de ostion with oyster or coctel de pulpo with octopus.
This former home has been reconfigured and hand painted with ocean scenes including depictions of some of the authentic Veracruz fare. Two snug dining areas are downstairs along with one larger dining room which has been painted with an underwater scene from floor to ceiling. On busy weekends, they can also open an upstairs dining room for overflow seating.
Each meal comes with a complimentary cup of soup. The tomato-based broth has the flavor of plenty of shellfish in the stock.
If you are into whole fish, you’ll find them under the Mojarras section of the menu, filet-style fish dishes are also available. The felete a la veracruzana ($14.99) has a classic sauce with tomato, olive, onion and green pepper — flavors which are still so common in Spanish cuisine. It’s like 500 years of history on a plate.
Under the heading Especialidades, you’ll find house specialties of shrimp, Spanish paella and red snapper.
The filete relleno de mariscos ($13.99) is an attractive dish. The white fish is stuffed with a blend of octopus, shrimp and crabmeat atop fresh chopped pico de gallo. It is topped with melted Monterrey cheese and a smoky, and slightly spicy, chipotle cream sauce. The plate includes Spanish rice, fresh tomato, slices of jalapeno, a simply salt-and-peppered mound of shredded white cabbage, fanned avocado slices and lime wedges. By adding those ingredients to a corn or flour tortilla you can create your own handheld taco to taste. We took our cue by watching all the tables around us doing that very thing.
The same set up and option comes with the camarones a la crema ($13.99). It is a popular dish and its cream sauce is slightly sweeter. The shrimp has a little bell pepper and onion in the mix but mostly it is about the tender, fresh tail-on shrimp and that amazing sauce. All of the vegetables on the plate were bright and super fresh.
For those who don’t like fish, there are two alternatives: carne asada or beef tacos. For those who do like fish, this is an escape from the ordinary. So much of our local seafood has a touch of Cajun influence to it which is to be expected with Louisiana nearby. But, Veracruz-style fish is something completely different, offering flavors, spices and preparations that make Veracruz natives feel right at home. For the rest of us, it’s a welcome change.
Classic Mexican Coca Cola and sodas, like the glass bottled Jarritos and the apple flavored (and hard to find) manzana soda, are refreshing and authentic touches. There is also an assorted daily selection of agua frescas to choose from.
For dessert, the pastel de tres leches ($5.25) is an over-the-top ending to a rich meal so save room. This one is phenomenal. A large square of light and spongy cake is served floating in a puddle of three-milk sauce and topped with a fanned strawberry. At first the sauce appears like marshmallow fluff. The lightly and fluffy whipped cream sauce is addictive. Truly one of the better tres leches cakes around.
All dishes at El Rincon Jarocho are made to order, and it tastes like it. Jarocho is the nickname for residents of Veracruz, Mexico, and you’ll feel like a local here.
El Rincon Jarocho
901 W. Seminary Drive, 817.708.2602, www.facebook.com/El-rincon-jarocho-1677204189196166
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Monday, closed Tuesday.