Leña Brava | West Loop/Fulton Market | Mexican/Southwestern | Restaurant
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April Alonso

Rick Bayless's latest restaurant, inspired by the Baja California Norte.

Our Review

Two years ago, when Rick Bayless devoted the entire eighth season of his PBS series Mexico: One Plate at a Time to the syncretic food of Mexico's Baja Peninsula, someone should've guessed that his long-gestating, closely guarded plan for Randolph Street—something he promised would be completely new to Chicago—would be somehow related. Well, here it is: Leña Brava is the chef's love letter to the seafood-dominant riches of Baja, with its inherent Mediterranean and Asian influences, cooked in the crucible of three wood-burning fires at the back of a busy, clamorous room. The alluring aromas of the "ferocious wood," as the name translates, permeate the restaurant, particularly the second-floor bar, and even the restrooms, where you might feel as if you've wandered among the fading embers of a forest fire. Under chefs Lisa and Fred Despres, dishes treated by those flames take up the second half of the menu, but its first page, titled "Ice," is dominated by raw seafood, aguachiles, ceviches, cocteles, and other dishes cooked, so to speak, in acid and served cold with a brilliant kaleidoscope of flavors, colors, and textures. This is where Baja's confluence of Mexican and Asian influences becomes most apparent. Read the full review >>

Mike Sula

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Price: $$$
Payment Type: Cards accepted

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