Rinconcito/La Brasca (リンコンシート/ラ・ブラスカ) - Colombian ***
Address - Nakano-ku, Arai 1-2-11 2F.
Opening hours - Open every day from 12:00 pm to 5:00 am. Rinconcito open after 8:00 pm
Telephone - 03-5343-2477
Menu - in Spanish and Japanese
Credit Cards - No
Some time ago I went to Nakano to see a Cuban friend of mine, and he suggested we go to eat at La Brasca, a Colombian restaurant nearby. Since I am a sucker for rare cuisines, I agreed immediately. Rinconcito/La Brasca, as the place is called, occupies a whole, albeit small, building. The left side is a salsa bar (Rinconcito, or "The corner") with live concerts and a salsa DJ on Thursdays, while the right (La Brasca, meaning unknown) is a Colombian restaurant. Not being interested in Latin music or dance, I haven't been to Rinconcito, but I know La Brasca.
The place is as authentic as they come, a piece of Colombia right above Waseda Dori. Most of the customers are Latin Americans, even though the menu is written in Japanese too. Japanese and English are hardly spoken at all: to eat here, you have to go native.
The menu is rich of unheard-of dishes, with a prevalence of meat and deep fried stuff. No wonder the waiters and customers are are all so stocky.
With my limited Spanish I ordered several of the most interesting plates, and the result was an interesting meal. Manuel, the Cuban guy, says the stuff is very similar to Cuban food. I said it's interesting, rather than good, because it isn't for gourmets. It's very simple food, stuff that knows no sophistication; fried bacon ("Chicharron"), fried bananas, plus French fries would be a typical meal.
This is not to say that it wasn't enjoyable but, after trying it a couple of times, I can think of better places to eat. After the first, necessary and memorable experience, you may find La Brasca's cuisine insufficiently attractive.
Where it is: From Nakano Station's North exit, go straight and turn right on Waseda Dori. Walk along the left side of the street and keep you eyes open: Rinconcito/La Brasca is the two-story building right after the ramen shop, some 300 m from the intersection between Nakano Dori and Waseda Dori
Follow the link
for some more info about the place (in Japanese)
A friend, after reading my review, sent me the following message:
I read your review of the Columbian restaurant in Nakano. My wife and I went a couple of years ago (like you, we couldn't resist trying something new). I remember having to try to order in Spanish and getting some rather "stodgy dishes". It certainly seemed authentic and the only other customer was Columbian but she didn't like the food and even I would say it's as bad as the most basic British dishes. I would tell someone to go once for the experience and the atmosphere but, unless they want to practice their Spanish, not twice.
Kyle's Good Finds - American Style Bakery *****
Address - Sun Heights Nakano, 2-7-10 Arai, Nakano-ku
Telephone - 03-3385-8993
Strictly speaking, KGF his isn't a restaurant, but I can't let you go on living without knowing about Kyle's small universe.
Kyle Sexton, his numerous family and his small bakery used to be my close neighbors in the bad old days when I lived in Nakano. Often, at around three in the afternoon I would go to get some cookies and some cherry pie, because I knew they would be hot out of the oven.
Kyle's warm and kind smile would always be there to greet me. He himself is at least as nice and interesting as his shop: originally from Pennsylvania, he is a gentle man and his face has exactly the same beautiful and warm chocolate color of his brownies. KGF hasn't made him rich, but many are the times I left his shop with more than I had paid. At home, opened my box, I would often find an extra brownie or a piece of zucchini bread he had given to me for free.
Now, it's no secret that I don't think much of food in the US, but I do like its traditional, pre-fast food cuisine, including stuff like carrot cake, and positively love brownies and cherry pie. Kyle's shop, opened on a shoestring so many years ago and still as small as it was then, incarnates all that is best in traditional US cuisine (Note: recently I have heard the word America used to mean US that I refuse to use it in that sense).
Take a look at the food photos in his site. It's good, honest, simple, homey food the way Mom used to make it: apple pies, cherry pies and brownies, but also banana bread, cheesecake, pecan pies, gingerbread and more, usually all still warm and always fresh. Kyle will cater to parties, make Birthday cakes and even deliver, if you order enough stuff.
And who knows, one of these days he might ever realize his old dream of opening a soul food restaurant, the first in Tokyo.
Internet - www.kylesgoodfinds.com