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Lena Brava - Rick Bayless Baja inspired restaurant - Parilla Heaven

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    Lena Brava - Rick Bayless Baja inspired restaurant - Parilla Heaven

    For my birthday, wife took me out to Lena Brava, in the Chicago West Loop, next to the Cruz Blanca brewery.

    Says them:
    Fire and ice have never played so well together. Leña Brava — ”ferocious wood” — takes its inspiration from the multicultural seaside elements of Baja California Norte, the region’s celebration of live-fire cooking and the area’s world-class wines.

    The raw bar tempts with spicy aguachiles and unique ceviches while the kitchen satisfies with everything cooked on an open hearth and wood-burning oven. With one of the country’s best selections of mezcal and wines from the much-heralded Valle de Guadalupe, Leña Brava evokes the unique flavors of one of Mexico’s most vibrant regions.
    The kitchen is Parilla Heaven... just a wall of Parilla style grills burning big logs, with Argentine style V grates dialed to all levels. Just walking in you get the alluring smell of wood smoke and chiles...

    Note: Not my pictures, but close enough:
    I started with the Aguachile #2: Grill roasted Pineapple, orange lime broth, Goat Cheese, spicy hazelnut salsa, and knob onion slices. Click image for larger version

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ID:	801597 An absolutely amazing set of flavors... looked a bit different than this photo, but close. The charred pineapple with the crunch of the nuts, and the creamy tang of the goat cheese... every bite was a bit different and still an exploration.

    Wife started with an avocado salad. Stated by her, an amazing salad. Click image for larger version

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ID:	801598 The star of the show was the pork shank carnitas. Regular PKB readers know pork shank has a special place in my heart... this was maybe the best I'd ever had.
    Click image for larger version

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ID:	801599 Ours had more meat on it than this plate. The textural contrast when you got a piece with some char, some connective gook, and some tender meat... just amazing. The green salsa was bright acid, the refrieds were creamy, smokey, porky... the pico was quite spicy (not my jam), and the onions had a nice sweetness. Together in a taco, just heavenly. #ShankGoals.
    As a side, we had plantains.
    Click image for larger version

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ID:	801600 With the salty cheese and the creamy crema, the grill concentrated the sugar, and gave them a more distinctive banana like flavor, and a soft creamy texture. Cut with a fork, delicious. Very good on the pork.

    We had a dessert, but I'm now even more conflicted about the 2021 grill purchase. I've seen the parilla light.

    I know some of you are reluctant to spend for a steak house or a BBQ restaurant, but next time you're in Chicago, I'd recommend Lena Brava to get that woodfire taste in a way you've probably never considered.

    #2
    Outstanding review! Something you would expect from Bayless. Very cool you had a great time.

    Comment


      #3
      I have the parrilla and meat. Just incredibly hard to get the rest of the ingredients here. Thanks for the write up!!

      Comment


      • Potkettleblack
        Potkettleblack commented
        Editing a comment
        Watching the cooks work their parrillas, put some cook envy in me.

      #4
      First, Happy Birthday. Thanks for the informative review. Glad that Bayless hit all the points for an outstanding meal.

      Comment


      • Potkettleblack
        Potkettleblack commented
        Editing a comment
        I've eaten at the original Frontera five times, Xoco once, Topolopambo once, the only Rick Bayless restaurant to close twice (it had a few names in it's years), and the place at the airport a couple times. We are groupies...

        Never disappointed, but I think Phil Vettel of the Trib nailed Lena Brava "... combines Frontera Grill’s high-energy atmosphere with Topolobampo’s thrill of discovery."

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