The review crew went south of the border (and to Spain) this week to bring you the newest and best in local Latin cuisine. If we recall correctly (and we do), DeLaCosta was reviewed last week in the Sun-Times; does this indicate a reviewing trendlet? Eyes will be peeled.
Phil Vettel bobbed over to Xel-Ha, the Yucatec-eria (we made that up) in Old Town, for an enjoyable reprise of his vacation in the Yucatan a few weeks ago. Food from this area is characterized by strongly flavored (but not too hot) moles, tropical ingredients and fresh seafood (it is, after all, a peninsula). Xel-Ha has some pretty good seafood dishes like pescado tikin-xic (sauteed mahi-mahi marinated with achiote and fried plantains and black beans with a hint of habanero, $16.50), but falls short on its gimmicky seafood shooter with rubbery octopus. If the menu could be edited and reorganized, Xel-Ha has the potential to be a keeper.
The other Tribune review was for Scott Dogs in the suburbs, so we’ll take a pass (although good quality corn dogs are a draw) and move along to Time Out.
First up is Azucar, whose opening we noted some weeks back. David Tamarkin was shocked by the 80-minute wait for a table he was quoted, given the number of tapas places in Chicago, but there really aren’t any others in the immediate area. Was the food worth it? Much of it, he reports, owing to chef Matt Saccaro’s training in French and Italian country cuisine at his former post at Socca. The pork tenderloin, which is spice rubbed and grilled with cinnamon roast apples, pistachios and apple gastrique ($10) speaks to Azucar’s more catholic approach to tapas, and the desserts are as rich and creamy as all get out. Do watch for unevenness in some of the seafood dishes, like a bland (if crispy) sea bass. Mostly, though, it seems like a good time is had by all.
David Hammond checks up on Mundial Cocina Mestiza, the undertrafficked haute Mexican joint in Pilsen. Sure, the foodies will travel from anywhere, but chef-owner Kate Garcia muses about the difficulties of getting neighborhood residents to drop $60 on a meal. But with enough patrons swooning over dishes like Filete De Huachinango En Mole Verde (red snapper fillet, green pumpkin seed, tomatillo mole, fried platano macho and white rice, $14), Grace & Co. have the resources and stamina to soldier on.
Xel-Ha settles in for a Yucatecan adventure [Tribune]
New Review: Azucar [Time Out]
Save This Restaurant: Mundial-Cocina Mestiza [Time Out]
Mundial Cocina Mestiza [MenuPages]