My wife and I loved Nonie and were distressed when it was sold and transformed to a mediocre family-style restaurant before finally closing. We anxiously awaited whatever might appear in its place and were eager to try Rio Café when it finally opened. We were so eager that we went the first Friday it was open, despite knowing that there would be inevitable hiccups in food and service with a staff working together for the first time.
Well, despite said hiccups, both that visit and subsequent one on Valentine’s Day were delightful. The previous review (Feb 5 by Stompper) may read as a bit over-the-top, but my wife and I would concur on most of the reviewer’s comments. During our first visit, we enjoyed the crab cakes (though they were a little small), the standard salad, the halibut (with a raspberry-chile sauce), and the coconut-crusted pork chop. The halibut and pork chop were outstanding. The former was generously-sized and very fresh, with just enough sauce to entice but not overpower. As the previous reviewer noted, the pork chop was cooked perfectly despite its thickness, and the honey and toasted coconut sauce was a simple but wonderful accent. Both came with sizeable servings of wasabi mashed potatoes (somewhat strange given the Latin flair to the rest of the menu) with great flavor and texture if missing any detectable wasabi. Our only complaint with the entrees were the accompanying grilled vegetable skewers. Very pretty, but underdone and lacking any of the caramelization that makes grilled veggies so interesting.
Our second visit was on Valentine’s Day, when they graciously accommodated us on short notice and bestowed a single rose to my wife (as they did to each of the female guests—a simple, but charming touch). Our starters—bacon-wrapped dates and a spinach salad—were both excellent, although I think the apple sauce served with the dates did not provide the contrast I’ve enjoyed in other similar dishes (such as bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with gorgonzola). The spinach salad was perhaps the best in recent memory. Our main dishes (the Rio Relleno and Lechon—slow-roasted pork) were also unusual and tasty, if not the homeruns of the previous visit (although also about $10 cheaper). I kept thinking that just a small amount of sauce (perhaps the liver sauce I believe is traditional in some places) would have helped the pork, which was a little dry in spots.
Apart from the food, we were extremely pleased with the service. We put a lot of weight on this aspect of dining out, partly because my wife spent years in the restaurant business (including working as a server herself at J-Bar). The manager and our dedicated servers were friendly and attentive but never intrusive. The owner stopped by on both occasions and seemed genuinely interested in how our experience had been. Also, on Valentine’s Day both the manager and owner recognized us from our previous visit and each made a special point of thanking us for returning.
Well, as we told them at the time, we’ll definitely be returning again soon.
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