Friday, September 4, 2009

Guava…latin dining in the Chicago suburbs

The SW suburbs of Chicago have very limited choices for elegant dining. By elegant dining, I mean white linen tablecloths, cloths napkins, fresh, seasonal ingredients and attentive service.
Other than the Dan McGee Restaurant in Frankfort, Chef Paul Virant’s Vie in Western Springs, Chef Jerome Bacle’s Courtrights in Willow Springs, Chef Colin Turner’s Tin Fish in Tinley Park and Chef Burcenski’s Tallgrass in Lockport, there are very few fine dining choices, especially for lunch.

I had heard about a new restaurant called Guava that had opened in Westmont, Illinois where Chef Ricardo DeLeon combines the tastes from South America, Central America, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Spain, and I was very interested in trying out their menu.

Thanks to soon-to-be Chef Lindsey of the blog Lindsey’s Kitchen who reviewed Guava restaurant on her new blog Supper for Suburbanites I thought this might be the perfect place to take my mother for a lunch that I had long promised her. Tapas and Mojitos are high on her list of faves, so after checking out Guava’s on-line menu, we planned our luncheon.

As soon as we entered the restaurant, we were cordially greeted by the hostess and shown to our table. The interior space presented as warm with rich. The hardwood floors, subdued wall colors that were spiced with bright abstract art pieces that were highlighted with well-placed lighting effects were immediately welcoming and engaging.

The main dining area featured a well stocked bar tiled with earth-toned small glass tiles and ringed by soft orange glass-shaded pendant lights. Rich dark brown Weng wood contemporary chairs surrounded tables that were dressed to impress in pristine white linen cloths with chocolate brown napkins wrapping the utensils at each place. It made me feel like a specially invited guest. The ambiance here was definitely upscale and elegant, yet not at all stuffy.

Guava is known for their signature Mojito menu. We choose the Watermelon Mojitos with luscious chunks of fresh sweet watermelon and fragrant mint. As we sipped our cool sweet-scented drinks, we perused the Tapas menu and made our choices.

Although it was not listed on the Lunch Menu, I asked the waiter if I could possibly order the duck sope that I had seen on their website menu. She asked the chef and he was more than happy to oblige.

The pulled Duck was piled high on a miniature bowl made from sweet potato and garnished with peach salsa and queso fresco. The duck was very well seasoned and the smokey taste that was well balanced by the sweetness of the sweet fresh peach salsa and the crunchy sweet potato sope. The dabs of the fresh queso fresco cheese added richness to the entire tapas.
Queso fresco is fresh cow’s milk cheese that is moist, soft and crumbly.
Traditionally, a sope is a small fried corn-dough bowl, but this sope was made with sweet potatoes that added a new culinary dimension to the conventional Latin favorite

My mother loves squid cooked in any manner, so she was naturally seduced by the Calamari Frita. The crispy fried squid were perfect in their minimalistic presentation paired only with a roasted red and green hot and sweet peppers and a pinch of cilantro for a pop of color. I loved seeing that as the calamari were flashed fried, they seemed to result in individual edible sculptures.

On the side, we were serves a very generous portion of delicious dark-red, house-made smoked tomato salsa and freshly sliced lemons. The spicy and richly smoked flavored sauce was the perfect exclamation point for the gentle flavors of the crispy squid.

The waiter shared with us that the chef wood-smokes his own peppers and tomatoes for this sauce and other dishes. I complimented this sauce so much that the waiter brought out a container of it for me to take home.

Next, we ordered the pork carnitas. The delicately crisp and freshly made soft corn quesadillas surrounded shredded slow-cooked tender pork topped with sweet brown caramelized onions. The delicate quesadillas triangles were circularly drizzled with a house-made avocado and sour cream sauce and garnished with salsa fresco. Yum, just yum…

The spicy, smokey flavor of the pork was enhanced by the sweetness of the onions, and cooled by the creamy avocado and cold concase of tomatoes and onions of the salsa. These were the best quesadillas I have ever tasted, as the flavors were at the same time familiar and surprising….

We toyed with the idea of ordering the Shrimp cerviche as I had heard is was delicious, but decided to save room to split a dessert. The Banana Crème Pie on the menu has been touted on the internet as having won many awards so we decided to put it to our taste test.

We were served a very generous slice of the Banana Crème Pie. The pie itself in presentation was drizzled with a caramel and chocolate garnish with half a banana that had a crispy caramelize sugar crust. As I looked at the plate, I was mentally calculating how many miles I would have to do on the treadmill to work off this amazing sweet treat.

The Banana Crème was richer than any pudding as it stood on its own and had a mellow fruity flavor, made richer still with the fresh whipped cream pilled on top for (what seemed like) another several inches. I wasn’t able to sample the crust as it was made with wheat flour. But my mother said that she tasted chocolate and peanut butter in the dark and thick, crunchy crust. Yes, it is award wining for sure…sugar coma anyone…?
We washed down the delicious banana decadence with aromatic rich Columbian coffee and vowed to come again and taste some of the other offerings on the menu of Guava restaurant.

It is open daily from 11:00 AM - 12:00 AM. Reservations are not necessary, but are suggested for dinner. And Thursday night there is Salsa dancing...I am so there.

Merci beaucoup encore to Lindsey and her new blog Supper for Suburbanites. I met Chef Lindsey last week at the Foodbuzz Chicago Community Table dining experience at Tru restaurant and look forward to eating her superb dishes in the future.


Lindsey said...

So glad you liked Guava! Love your photos!

Anonymous said...

How nice that you and your mom got to enjoy that together, Terrie! I enjoyed imagining how good it all must have been.

Dedene said...

That is a gorgeous restaurant. I love latin food. Everything looks like it was just perfect.
How nice that you and your mom can get together over a nice lunch.

Culinary Cory said...

Cute restaurant review. I love their clean lines and rich dark colors in the space. The food looks like it was well executed. You weren't the only ones in the restaurant for lunch were you?

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Merci mille fois, Lindsey, Anonymous, Dedene and Cory for your kind comments.

Our restaurant experience at Guava was quite exceptional for such a new resto that just opened in mid-July.

And no, Cory, we were definitely not the only ones at
There were many, many other customers dining for lunch that day at Guava.

Phil Lowe said...

that looks like the sort of place I would like to visit, definately. Thanks TM for covering the venue.

5 Star Foodie said...

Sounds like a lovely place! The duck looks especially excellent!

Camera Crazy said...

As always, I feel as if I were there--the photos are so beautiful. I'm most interested in your mother though--I didn't know she lived near you.

Peter said...

Everything seems to have been perfect ... service, food, atmosphere! (No mention of the accompanying wine? Or just water?)

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