Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

Restaurants: Sudamericano, February 12, 2009

Places for pollo and other regional dishes

comment

Restaurant listings are culled from the Reader Restaurant Finder, an online database of more than 4,200 Chicago-area restaurants. Restaurants are reviewed by staff, contributors, and (where noted) individual Reader Restaurant Raters. Though reviewers try to reflect the Raters' input, reviews should be considered one person's opinion; the Raters' collective opinions are best expressed in the numbers. Complete searchable listings, Raters' comments, and information on how to become a Rater are at chicagoreader.com/restaurantfinder.

Sudamericano

Al Primo Canto5414 W. Devon | 773-631-0100

$$$South American, Italian | Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday | Sunday brunch | Closed Monday | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11

Chef-owner Georges Elbekai spent two years developing this Brazilian galeteria specializing in galeto al primo canto, marinated young grilled chicken (the stunning stainless steel churrasco was imported from Brazil). The menu reflects Brazil's multiethnic composition, starting with rich, silky baba ghanoush served with warm Lebanese-style pita and cheese bread. For $29.95, an all-you-can-eat "endless feast" comes to the table, beginning with a delightfully crisp polenta frita topped with Parmigiano Reggiano and pasta with three sauces. Then comes the meat: crisp-skinned, flavorful chicken, tender grilled beef tenderloin, and luscious marinated lamb. Sides include cloud-light cheese puffs and crunchy double-cooked potatoes with an addictive Gorgonzola sauce. There are no sword-toting tarted-up gauchos to trouble you, and in all Al Primo Canto offers the churrascaria experience in a significantly more civilized manner than other spots for a lower price. An a la carte menu is also available. —Gary Wiviott

Brasa Roja3125 W. Montrose | 773-866-2252

$$South American, Steaks/Lobster | Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | BYO

This outpost of Jorge and Jeanette Gacharna's excellent Lakeview churrascaria, El Llano, has one major advantage over the original: pollo rostizado. Every morning the birds start spinning over hot coals in the window of the Albany Park storefront; plump and round, with steadily browning skin, they beg to be tucked under the arm like a football and carried away. In the dining room the Gacharnas have disguised the ghosts of retail past, festooning the dropped ceiling and walls with folkloric gimcracks and posters of South American ranch life. The scent of sizzling flesh precedes the arrival of wooden boards laden with grilled steaks, short ribs, or rabbit, accompanied by a sharp salsa verde and the four starches of the apocalypse—rice, fried yuca, boiled potato, and arepas. Milk- or water-based jugos like blackberry and mango are surpassed by the sweet but oddly peppery passion-fruit variety, and desserts include brevas con arequipe (caramel-filled figs). Doors open at 9 AM for calentado, the traditional Colombian breakfast featuring beans, arepas, potatoes, eggs, carne asada, and cheese-stuffed pastries called buñuelos. —Mike Sula

Fina Estampa2937 W. Montrose | 773-478-5506

$South American, latin american | Lunch, dinner: seven days

This tiny Peruvian spot replaced the Ecuadoran Mr. Pollo and apparently inherited its rotisserie oven—but not the tasty charcoal-fired pollo a la brasa that the former tenant put out. The chickens I've had the misfortune to taste here were dry, too dark, underseasoned, and appeared to have been held long past their value as even vulture bait. It just may be that Fina Estampa is suffering from the catch-22 of not winning enough business to turn over a consistently fresh and delicious product—it certainly doesn't seem to be drawing any customers away form the busy Brasa Roja down the street, or the magnificent D'Candela a little bit further. There's also a limited menu of Peruvian specialties. —Mike Sula

Gloria's Cafe3300 W. Fullerton | 773-342-1050

$$South American, latin american | Lunch, dinner: seven days | BYO

Reopened under new ownership (with an actual Gloria at the helm) this little Colombian joint is putting out lovingly made home-style plates. My admittedly limited experience with arepas (corn cakes) had me believing they were dry, lifeless pucks, but here the cheese and sweet corn (choclo) arepa appetizers both were moist and cakey. Empanadas with mild chimichurri were swell, particularly the spinach, garlic, and potato variety, as was a "Colombian Hummus" with no identifiable South American traits. Rotisserie chickens are marinated, blazed well, and available in various sums of their parts. The traditional dishes and steakss come with ample starchy and fibrous sides (rice, cassava, plantains, beans). I'm particularly partial to the bandeja paisa (country platter), a manly pile of sides, chicharrones, chorizo, grilled flank steak, and a fried egg. —Mike Sula

Machu Picchu3856 N. Ashland | 773-472-0471

$$South American, Latin American | Lunch: friday-Sunday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11 | BYO

Though Machu Picchu has been criticized in the past for glacially slow service, its new management seems determined to dodge that bullet. We barely had time to look at the menu before the waiter appeared to take our order; the appetizers arrived mere minutes later, followed closely by the entrees. The rapid-fire arrival of food and drinks was actually a little disconcerting—not to mention making it difficult to eat the food while it was still hot—but nearly everything we tried was excellent, if a little pricey. I know this isn't Peru, but $8 for a papa rellena or $4 for a single alfajor seems extreme. Still, the alfajor was one of the best I've had, the biscuit crumbly and flavorful (the menu says this sandwich cookie is filled with blancmange, but don't worry, it's actually dulce de leche). And the papa rellena was as comfortingly meaty and potatoey as any I've had, though a little heavy on the vinegar. Ceviche of shrimp tasted fresh and tangy, spicy but not overwhelmingly so. Though again, at $16 for the dish, the little suckers were around $1.50 each. Entrees are a better deal: averaging around $15 each, they're not cheap either, but the portions are enormous, and the quality, at least for our aji de gallina and picante de camarones, was on par with the rest of the menu. If you don't BYO, also try the chicha morada, a traditional sweet drink made from purple corn steeped with clove, cinnamon, and pineapple. —Julia Thiel

Rio's d'Sudamerica2010 W. Armitage | 773-276-0170

$$$south american, latin American | Lunch: Monday-Saturday; Dinner: seven days | Sunday brunch | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight, Monday-Thursday till 11

Formerly a pan-Latin restaurant, Rio's shifted course last year when Elizabeth Perez, mother of owner Dino Perez, moved over to her son's place after closing the family's longtime Peruvian place, Rinconcito Sudamericano. Besides adding more Peruvian items directly from Rinconcito's menu—among them sudado de mariscos (a steamed seafood combination), aji de gallina (shredded chicken breast in creamy walnut sauce) and carapulcra (pork and sun-dried potatoes cooked in red wine with peanuts and panca chiles—she's tweaked others, for example preparing seco de carne (meat stew) with beef or veal rather than lamb and substituting seafood for tripe in cau cau spiced with aji amarillo (hot yellow peppers). In addition, Rio's is showcasing a new signature dish, pollo a la brasa, chicken marinated for at least 24 hours in a secret blend of 20 ingredients, then rotisseried in a wood-burning brick oven and served with french fries and avocado salad. —Anne Spiselman

Rosa de Lima2013-15 N. Western 773-342-4557

$$South American, Latin American | Lunch, dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Monday

Peru gave the world potatoes, so you'd expect the country's signature tuber to be presented here with aplomb, and so it is: causa de camarones is a layered tower of grainy mashed yellow spuds alternating with shrimp salad, a study in subtle flavors and textures; papas a la Huancaina is a mound of potato disks drenched in creamy Peruvian cheese, dappled with olives and parsley in a rich, delicious mess. Belly-worthy chicken is marinated, roasted, and rendered even more delicious with seriously perky onion and tomato salsa. Peruvian beverages are made with care and fresh juices; the passion fruit sour—creamy and cool with egg white and ice—is a winning sip. The dessert combo of pisco-spiked rice pudding with mazzamora, purple corn cooked with sweet potato and fruit, looks and tastes really good. Rosa de Lima has an adventurous, reasonably priced menu worthy of exploration and featuring regional exotica like pumpkin puree with milk and butter and veal hearts skewered with (what else?) potatoes. —David Hammond

Taste of Peru6545 N. Clark | 773-381-4540

F 8.1 | S 8.0 | A 5.7 | $$ (7 reports) South American, Latin American | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11 | BYO

rrr My first visit to this Peruvian strip-mall storefront was enjoyable—and has set my expectations high for future trips. Of special note: it's BYO, service is sloooow, portions are huuuuge, and the neighborhood dinner rush seems to peak at 6 PM on Saturday. That said, the food is pleasant and a tremendous bargain—be prepared to take leftovers with you (or order one entree for two diners). We especially enjoyed the pollo en salsa de mani (chicken with Peruvian peanut sauce), the shrimp picante (served in a creamy, savory sauce), and the mixed ceviche. There was a superb jalapeño-chile-onion dipping sauce served with simple, tasty bread. Be sure to try an Inca Kola soft drink! There's a grocery store a few doors south on Clark that has a decent selection of wine and beer. On weekends the restaurant features live music. —Patrick Brown, Rater

Please submit new listings or updates (include phone numbers) to restaurants@chicagoreader.com or Restaurant Listings, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

Add a comment