Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Chicago: Part 2 - Chilam Balam

After a long day swimming and sunbathing with KC, we joined a friend for dinner at Chilam Balam in Lakeview, a cute little area about 10 minutes north of the CBD.

Chilam Balam has a very relaxed vibe with its unassuming basement location, dinner party vibe and eclectic tunes. Something about the place made me feel like the playlist had been tailored for my tastes as well as the menu. Chilam Balam’s talented young chef, Chuy Valencia, has paid his dues at top restaurants including a stint as sous chef at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. He works with seasonal ingredients, changing the menu often and cultivating close relationships with local producers. The attention to detail shows in the expert flavour combinations and execution.

We began our meal with a jug of agua fresca (then a bottle of byo wine) and ahi tuna ceviche with ground cherry pico de gallo, tamarind, sweet corn and crispy plantain chips ($15.95 + tax and tip). The ceviche was and incredible combination of fresh and sour flavours with the crunch of the plantain chips.

Our next dish was lamb shank barbacoa with red chilli sope, with a peanut thickened salsa served with lime and queso fresco ($14.25). The lamb was unctuous and the dish was hearty without being overly stodgy.

This was followed by pan roasted duck breast with adobo sauce, mashed Yukon potato, grilled haricot vert and chorizo ($14.95). The duck was served with tortillas to make tacos with – delicious.

The grilled pork loin with pasilla sauce, grilled summer squash, aged cheese and fried fingerling potatoes ($13.95) was also served with tortillas.

The grilled flank steak, roasted potato, crispy onion, guajillo chilli and coriander ($13.95) was tender and would pair perfectly with some Colorado beer (maybe fat tire).

We were fit to burst by this stage but had to try a dessert. We decided on the chilli chocolate mousse with spiced goats cheese, orange liqueur flambéed marshmallow and fried plantain ($7.50). It was a deliciously adult version of a chocolate cheesecake with intriguing flavours working in synch.

I did do my best for my Melbourne compatriots and beg the owner to set up shop way down south but I’m not sure if it worked…

Chilam Balam on Urbanspoon

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