Shaman | West Town/Noble Square | Mexican/Southwestern | Restaurant
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Sarah Nardi

Sister to Lakeview's Chilam Balam, offering a changing seasonal menu of Mexican small plates. Cash only; BYO.

Our Review

A trip to Shaman, a second Mexican small-plates restaurant from the people behind Chilam Balam, is kind of like going on a date with a would-be bad boy. Located on a still-somewhat-gritty strip of Chicago Avenue, it’s BYO and cash only, with an interior featuring awkward wooden banquettes, cafeteria chairs, and fluorescent lighting. But rather than winning me over, Shaman was repeating itself by the time the first two dishes hit the table, laying out a mahimahi ceviche and guacamole so similarly plated and palate-numbingly citrusy that they were essentially indistinguishable. Panfried monkfish with red lentils and brussels sprouts landed with a thud and sat around on the table long after we’d lost interest, only to be replaced by bland turkey carnitas that despite guajillo salsa, sweet potato, and blood orange lacked any hint of heat or sweetness. Our final plate, a huitlacoche tamal with poblano cream and cilantro pesto, arrived so late I’d already made my peace with being stood up—too bad, because it was excellent. And then came dessert: Oaxacan chocolate flan with a leaden quality that turned its generous size into a burden, and a creamsicle tres leches cake that was inoffensive enough, though I can’t say I enjoyed it.

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