Latin Lovin’

Foreign flavors shine at Scituate’s new dining
“treasure.”

By COLBY RADOMSKI

 

How do you not compete with yourself?”

That’s the question chef Robin King and his wife and business partner, Jill, had to ask themselves when they opened their second restaurant, Tesoro, last March. Daunting enough is managing one restaurant in the small town of Scituate, let alone two. Coupled with the addition of two new members to their family this year—and the fact that their new eatery is directly across from their first, Restaurant Oro—the Kings definitely had their work cut out.

But for this dynamic duo, who have worked alongside each other in the culinary industry for two decades (Robin mans the kitchen while Jill manages the front of the house), they’ve got a perfect recipe for balancing family and food.

“We balance both restaurants by choosing this lifestyle,” Robin says. “We’ve got busy down to a science.”

Located on the bottom level of the Inn at Scituate Harbor, the Latin kitchen, whose name means “treasure” in Spanish, is a refreshing contrast to its fine-dining sister restaurant.

“We wanted [Tesoro] to be a departure from Oro. We felt the space lent itself to be more casual,” Robin says. It comes as no surprise that his Colombian heritage also played a role in the couple deciding to bring Latin flare to Front Street.

With exposed brick, cement floors and trendy, yet cozy decor (including two couches and a fireplace), the small cantina-style eatery offers guests a relaxed, come-as-you-are atmosphere. When the weather allows, guests are able to dine al fresco on a large stone patio overlooking the harbor.

Though Tesoro’s menu sets itself apart from the “new-New England” cuisine at Oro, the Kings emphasize a similar grassroots concept, including the use of locally sourced ingredients and operating an all-scratch kitchen. Constructing a menu that was diverse, yet approachable was key. Thus far, the response has been positive. It’s gratifying, the couple agrees, when guests try a dish they’d never heard of before and love it enough to order it the second time they’re in.

Aside from what’s regularly on the enticing menu lineup, the kitchen puts out several weekly specials and hosts monthly wine dinners that feature bites from particular Latin regions. February’s wine dinner for example, will include traditional Argentinian dishes paired with (you guessed it) Argentinian wine. The couple says their ultimate goal is to keep things consistent, but also interesting and fresh.

While the small-plates eatery encourages sharing, I found this incredibly hard on my recent visit, especially when I sunk my teeth into the shaved steak arepas (think open-faced, Latin-style steak-and-cheese) and chicharrones. The chimichurri-marinated steak was melt-in-your-mouth tender and came topped with a flavorful poblano pepper salad. King knocked it out of the park with the chicharrones—a sweet and savory combination of house-cured bacon chunks fried to perfection, with pickled chilies and crispy onions, served atop a puree of mango and papaya. Other offerings include traditional dishes like tacos al pastor: anchiote roasted and shredded pork stuffed inside a homemade tortilla and covered with cilantro and pineapple salsa, as well as bar-friendly bites like their mouthwatering (and a little messy) crispy chicken wings smothered in a sweet and spicy chipotle sauce.

Complementing the impressive food selection is a well thought-out cocktail menu, with tequila as the focal point; something Robin will proudly say is all Jill’s doing. House favorites include creative margaritas, sangria and even a Mexican chocolate martini made with espresso tequila.

With a menu packed with bold, exotic flavors and five-star hospitality, Tesoro is definitely proving worthy of its name and has become a welcome favorite on Front Street.

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