My first encounter with BarBakoa was at The Chicago Gourmet festival this year. As I made my rounds through the Mexican Food Pavilion, at the event, I tasted some of their samplings and fell in love. It was nice to see Chef Dudley Nieto himself serving everyone with such gusto. He even took the time to have a quick conversation with me about BarBakoa & my blog, and extended an invitation to do a seafood tasting.
Eager to learn more about this contemporary restaurant located in the heart of the Downers Grove area, I visited them last weekend with a friend. For those of you new to BarBakoa, it has an urban ambiance and serves modern day Latin Cuisine. With Jerry Kleiner as one of its partners, the décor is every bit lively & colorful. The music was so groovy; that I wanted to download every song they were playing! The staff are just about the nicest people I have met and were enthusiastic about giving us the most enjoyable food tasting experience.
They first brought out a margarita named The Clooney. Did you know that George Clooney (yes, the actor) has his own line of luxury tequilas? The drink comprised of the tequila mixed in with some hand squeezed limejuice & agave nectar. So good, I was addicted after only a few sips! And it became my drink for the night. After all, I’m a Clooney loyalist ;-) And although it was my favorite, The BarBakoa and the Pineapple Sangria are also noteworthy.
The staff proceeded to bring us the ceviche trio, and the Pina guacamole. They were all excellent; light & refreshingly fresh. The hominy in the Amarillo Mixto was a nice touch, along with the pickled sweet potato and shortbread pumpkin crackers that were served with each bowl of ceviche. We also tried the Tropical Bites entrée, a platter of grilled diver scallops, gulf shrimp, calamari & fried cod, which was delicious. What I loved most however was that every fish on the plate was glazed in a different sauce, leaving you with a medley of flavors so there was no room for monotony. Note: this entrée is substantial and can be shared by two people.
The dish of the night was, the tacos. We were served a tray of two Lobster, Camaron (shrimp) and FishPa tacos each. Although tacos are a Mexican staple & don’t appear complicated, until you eat them at a restaurant like BarBakoa you don’t realize how intricate they can be in the combination of sauces and seasonings used to make each taco unique. The genius of Chef Dudley in bringing Mexican street food flair to taco modernism, shines through.
Each taco I ate was carefully topped with an adorable toupee of their house-made cole slaw. The delicious lobster tacos were dipped in a horseradish-mayo and some fire roasted corn salsa. The Camaron tacos had shrimp battered in rice flour in a tangy tamarind-morita salsa that went so well together, I wondered why no one thought of this before?! The light texture of the homemade corn tortillas also enriched the flavor of the fish. The tacos were my favorite in food, no doubt, and if this had been my main meal, I would have downed all six tacos!
Chef Dudley Nieto has managed to raise the bar for classic Latin cuisine with BarBakoa and has opened other popular bistros including Adobo Grill and Chapuline.
I enjoyed every minute of my dining experience there, so if you’re looking to take a break from the city for some tasty Latin grub, stop by BarBakoa!