A new Argentine restaurant from the former chef-owner of Lincoln Park's Caminito Argentinian Grill
, Chimichurri focuses on the classics: sandwiches, pasta, steak, pizza, gelato (the Italian influences are the product of Italian immigration to Argentina in the 19th and 20th centuries). I ate at Caminito when it first opened under the direction of Mario Lobos, an Argentine who's been in Chicago for nine years now, and was impressed by most of what I tried. So I was surprised that his new restaurant didn't quite measure up: nothing was terrible, but most of what we ordered fell on the mediocre side of average.
A chicken empanada had a crispy fried exterior, but the filling was slightly dry and not very flavorful. The churrasco, a thin steak marinated in chimichurri sauce, was stringy and chewy, though the flavor wasn't bad. Better was the fugazzeta rellena, a pizza with ham and mozzarella between two layers of crust, topped with onions and tomatoes; the crackery crust was lightly charred on the bottom and edges, and the balance of toppings and fillings to bread was right on. The highlight of the meal was an appetizer of juicy, smoky chorizo. Oddly, though, it was served with a kind of fresh salsa instead of chimichurri.
As it turned out, we weren't missing much. An Argentine sauce used on grilled meat, chimichurri is usually made with finely chopped fresh parsley and oregano, garlic, olive oil, and a little vinegar. The fresh herbs make for a vibrant green sauce that resembles an extra-oily pesto, and the raw garlic is abundant enough to add some bite. You'd think a restaurant named after the sauce would take extra pains over their recipe, but the chimichurri here was made with dried herbs and little to no garlic, a wan brownish-green shadow of the better versions I’ve had.
The silver lining is that the restaurant makes its own gelato, and a small cup of dulce de leche was beautifully creamy, with deep, dark caramel flavors.
Chimichurri, 1454 W. 18th, 312-733-4030, chimichurripizza.com; BYO