Altiro Roscoe Village, Suburbs Come to the City

Altiro Latin Fusion Roscoe Village

Ala Florinda

Ala Florinda

In 2014, I went to Altiro Latin Fusion in Geneva, Illinois, at the recommendation of a good friend. At the time it seemed that tacos prepared in exotic fashion were becoming the rage. The visit to that Altiro was the first time I had exotic tacos done right, it seemed. I joked with the owner that they should open a location  in Chicago proper in Logan Square. Well, I never thought a suggestion given in jest would be taken seriously. Instead of Logan Square, an Altiro Latin Fusion is now in Roscoe Village at 2116 W. Roscoe Street, a quick ride from Logan Square.

I got in contact with my friend who introduced me to the Altiro Geneva offerings to see if he was game for trying out the Roscoe Village location. Being sure to arrive well in advance of the dinner crowd, we had a seat, he starting with a Modelo Dos Equis, and me whetting my palate with an Al Florinda. The concoction of hibiscus with bourbon, orange liqueur, orange juice, lime juice and chili de Arbol definitely had me off the a good start.

Al Elotito

Al Elotito

One tapas dish that I enjoyed at the Geneva location and an all-time Mexican favourite is elote. The Al Elitito was not the usual corn on the cob, but was off the cob prepared with garlic aioli, serrano pepper, fresh epazote, onions, cotija cheese, and chile piquin. This may be some of the most addictive corn you will ever devour.

Ala Papa Brava

Ala Papa Brava

Something different we ordered was Ala Papa Brava. This came as several potato logs, topped with an egg sunny side up and dollops of aioli and poblano sauces. Of all of the Spanish tapas restaurants I’ve gone to that serves papas bravas, Altiro Roscoe Village is in control of setting the bar.

Al Fundido

Al Fundido

Altiro is outstanding when it comes to tacos and this is another area where they’ve set the bar high  — for me, that is. We ordered the Al Fundido, which were tacos prepared with sautéed garlic shrimp, Chihuahua cheese, cilantro-lime oil, and escabeche red onions. It is easy to forget about ordering tacos with shredded beef, ground beef, pork, or chicken after having it with delectable, plump shrimp ala Al Fundido.

Al Poblano

Al Poblano

In preparation for the final main dish, my friend had another beer and I ordered an Al Pepiño. When I said I wanted a spicy drink, the recipe of muddled cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno infused vodka, fresh lime, and agave nectar was sent from the gods, not the bartender. And with the Al Poblano of tender chicken breast over rice in a poblano sauce and accented with pomegranate seeds, my friend and I were too immersed in working the tortillas to scoop the dish that we hadn’t noticed the Damiens and Rhodas having a run of the restaurant.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

After having stuffed ourselves to near food comatose, we waited before having their version of tiramisu. Move over Italian restaurants because you have competition. There were the usual ingredients, but there wasn’t the espresso and usual dusting of cocoa powder on top. There was Rumchata. People who say bacon goes great with everything will promptly start saying Rumchata is considerably better with everything after they have some of this tiramisu.

Al Pepiño

Al Pepiño

I remember the service being about 50 miles past exceptional at the Altiro Geneva location. The Roscoe Village has been open for less than a full year and they’re already well down the stretch with top service. Sending something from the kitchen that is not appetizing clearly is not a part of their formula. Not one item have I had that I did not want to eat to excess after the first bite. Although I have to go only a few miles to Roscoe Village for a feast of their good food, I’m okay with that. I’m just glad I don’t have to ride the train all the way out to Geneva.

Altiro Latin Fusion Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ulterior Motives at Altiro

Altiro Latin Fusion Restaurant

A year ago while on my way home from having sated myself senselessly, I received a text message from a great friend with an accompanying photo. Not that I was in any position to eat anything, I did marvel at the appetizing items he had sent in the text message — and in the subsequent text messages. Several months later he sent another text message with more photos and a recommendation that I should venture out to the West Suburbs to sample the small dishes at the restaurant that he was advertising with relish. Fast forward a year and I decided to take his advice finally. It was off to Altiro Latin Fusion Restaurant at 308 Anderson Boulevard in Geneva, Illinois.

Al Trio

Al Trio

Pineapple Margarita

Pineapple Margarita

Al Elotito

Al Elotito

Because the restaurant had a swell variety of dishes to try, my great friend thought that it would be better to sample different menu items to get a range of flavours. In keeping with Latin flare in food, we had the al trio. This was a flight of guacamole with homemade chips. There were pomegranate, apple, and traditional. Although I have had some “experimental” guacamole during my comings and goings, Altiro did not disappoint with their variations. And living in Chicago proper where there is a large concentration of Mexicans, I have had more elotes than I can recount. Those who love the street vendor corn on the cob will become addicted to the al elotito. This plate of roasted corn, prepared with garlic aioli, serrano pepper, epazote, onions, and cojita cheese, could easily become a wanted dish at every meal. Having the al trio and al elotito with a pineapple margarita that had been mixed with a homemade chipotle pineapple ice cube and chili powder on the rim was a beautiful start.

Al Vegetal

Al Vegetal

Al Camaronchizo

Al Camaronchizo

Al Fundido

Al Fundido

Having devoured the appetizers, it was time to begin sampling variety. Starting with the al vegetal, I was completely wowed with how the recipe yielded something flavourful like a succulent steak. The roasted portabello mushroom, avocado, piña, bell peppers, red onions, and chipotle reduction, served with a chipotle and an avocado reduction, was a tasteful deviation from the norm of chicken, steak, pork, and beef tacos.  The al camaronchizo was one of those tacos that one could fall in love with and forget that there are other kinds of tacos that you can enjoy. I have limited pork intake in my diet, but the chorizo with basque shrimp, avocado slaw, and chipotle aioli was something I forgave quickly.

After a necessary moment to pause before attacking another set of tacos, there was the al fundido, a taco lovers plate of sautéed shrimp, Chihuahua cheese, red onions, and cilantro-lime oil. I had completely forgotten about fast food tacos and I had also completely discounted any of the Mexican holes in the wall in Chicago proper that prepare and sell authentic tacos. For a finale of tacos, we ordered al gallina of grilled chicken, with enchilado sauce, grilled piña, cilantro, and red onions. By this fourth dish of tacos, I noticed that there was distinction among all of the dishes. Per my great friend’s commentary, there is consistency in the flavouring. There certainly was consistency in the quality.

Ala Gallina

Ala Gallina

We gave ourselves a bit more time to let our bellies settle before indulging a postre. I was riding the commuter train back into downtown Chicago and wanted to stay awake, so we opted for something light. Without looking at the menu, I rattled off to the server to surprise us. He obliged. There was a dessert platter that looked like sushi. What we received were four key lime cylinders, topped with strawberry quarters, and indeed looking like something from a sushi bar menu. Ever so grateful that the dessert was light, we consumed it slowly, because it would have been a crime to have left any. And to cancel out my desire to stay alert on the commute back into downtown, I had a guava margarita. I have no willpower.

Postre

Postre

Guava Margarita

Guava Margarita

Altiro Latin Fusion is truly off the beaten path. When people go to Geneva, there are two main strips that everyone crowds. However, Altiro is down a side road on a residential street. Clearly the only way one would discover the restaurant is by getting lost or by inquiring of someone who has gone to Altiro where the exact location is. Because I have had taco overload since moving to Chicago in 1994, I have not been excessively quick to go to any Mexican restaurants or fast food restaurants that serve Mexican fare. Sure, Altiro serves Latin fare, but they add enough pizzazz to their items that after the first bite of food from any other Latin restaurant, you may want to throw your plate against the wall. Well, it may be better to simply request the check and make the trek out to Geneva instead. Altiro Latin Fusion will be there. You should be there, too.

Altiro Latin Fushion on Urbanspoon

Vermilion — Indian and Latin Marriage

I am an agent of change. I am a force to be reckoned with. Forget all of that psycho babbling. I am a man with a constant craving and have learned that some diversity in my diet is not a bad thing. Who am I kidding? I love food, and you know this already. Ethnic restaurants and eateries have always been the topic of Chicago Alphabet Soup and that is not going to change. But I wanted to take ethnic dining one more step farther — ethnic dining with a fusion twist. With so many fantastic restaurants in Chicago, what better place to delve into a mixture of cultural cuisines than in any of the many dining establishments in the city.

Degustation of Four Appetizers

A very short walk from my downtown office is Vermilion, located at 10 W. Hubbard Avenue. Situated in what could be mistaken for a brownstone between a notch-up sports bar and a cigar bar, is one of Chicago’s premier fusion restaurants. Vermilion blends the flavours of Indian and Latin influences. It is an interesting combination, rather appetizing when done right, to have two very competitive flavours prepared in the same dishes. During visits from years long past, the chefs seemed more influenced by Indian spices and so Indian was dominant in the dishes. I wanted to see if that still was the case.

Artichoke Pakora

With it being half past five o’clock, the restaurant was not yet filled. I had a pick of any seat, but I opted to sit outside and enjoy the warm temperatures. Much to my chagrin, I had forgotten about the cigar bar immediately next door. But it was outside where I had to sit because photography on the inside was not an option allowed. Nothing like sitting outside after work hours in the middle of River North watching the Barbies, Kens, Ramones, and Melissas walking along their way, so coiffed, so tanned, so stiff, so perfect, so plastic. Not only was I going to get great shots of food with natural light, but I had all the trappings of a Stanley Kubrick style Normal Rockwell setting before me.

Vindaloo ArepaI began with a cranberry juice for a cocktail. No alcohol so soon after taking a seat, as I am a lightweight and probably would have ended up calling my past room mate blabbing all sorts of things into her voice mail and then having her recount them to me during emotional blackmail. It is always better to start off light, eat something, and then introduce the heavier drinks after gobbling some solid food. When the waitress came to take my order, aside from me staring at her because she looked so much like fashion model Helana Christensen, I simply told her that I wanted a range of appetizers — or tapas as they are listed on the menu. I explained that I am vegetarian primarily, but not one of those who would make a scene if meat is served to me. My request was that she surprise me. And surprise she did.

I had vindaloo arepa, chicken kabab, garbonzo beans with mint water, and artichoke pakoras. The vindaloo arepa was prepared proper with the vindaloo. Here is where blending Venezuelan arepa bread with shredded beef in a vindaloo sauce with a faint hint of mint makes for a fantastic combination. This little lovely was a taste, literally, and would be lovelier as an entrée. Next up was the chicken kabab with jalapeños and pickled onions. Yet another bite, so to speak, the chicken was seasoned but very mild at the same time. The onions and peppers carried most of the flavour, which may have been the Indian representation of the dish; hence, the spiciness in the vegetarian portion. The Tenth Wonder of the World — in my appetite universe — was the garbonzo beans with mint water. Too bad it was chi-chi size. The garbonzo beans were in a small, flaky pastry, which was almost cracker-like. Served with the mint water, it was a perfect bite, one I wish I could have made last forever or at least for a few minutes. This is another one that should be an entrée, but it was fantastic as an appetizer nevertheless. Rounding out the tapas were artichokes cooked with a light flaky crust for the pakora and served with a curry gravy and a tamarind chutney drizzle. A mild flavour, but not as faint as the flavour of the chicken kabab, the mouth did not go wow with each bite but I did smile with satisfaction.

Chicken Kabab

Garbonzo Beans with Miint WaterBecause I had my high-end camera out and on the tripod clicking away, there were several pedestrians who stopped and watched with a fair share of mock interest. It is not every day that you see a photographer out with heavy duty camera equipment capturing impressions of food. That is usually reserved for some food stylist and photographer who operate in a studio or in a kitchen away from casual strollers. Add to it all me scribbling on my notepad and there was interest. The waitress was more accommodating, albeit she was fantastic as a server long before I extracted my camera, pen, and notepad. The hostess made several rounds by the table. Other staff members came out to inquire if I was enjoying the food. And I still would not tell them that I was not a high-end reviewer for some popular magazine since I had to sit outside due to photography inside being a no-no. It was clear after the nth staff member came out and inquired as to my level of satisfaction that I realized the two sitting across from me — Mona and Rachel, I shall call them — were not pleased with not receiving the same exaggerated attentiveness. Considering how many cocktails they imbibed, they deserved attention more than I did, and muzzles for their mouths that let a lot of their personal business fly about the outdoor area.

Cucumber Mint MartiniAfter finishing the appetizers and having my plates cleared in advance of me ordering main dishes, I requested a recommendation from the waitress for a cocktail. Having eaten something, I could have a drink and not fear that I would somehow call my past room mate and blab random nonsense. The waitress suggested that I should try a cucumber mint martini. I am one for trying all sorts of exotic and eccentric things, but this one was for the record books. I am addicted — not as in I am going to rush back to the restaurant when I am done with this review and order two for good measure. Cucumber and mint together seem rather odd and having those two flavours swimming around in vodka seems a bit eye-raising. But this was a martini that I shall have again if ever I return to Vermilion, or I will request it at other restaurants — with hopes that the bartenders do not look at me like I am a multi-headed hydra. I could taste the ingredients and the fact that the vodka was tamped down so that it did not send me into a post haste drunken buzz made it that much better.

Daal Makhani and Pindi Chicken

For the entrées, I wanted another range of dishes because I knew that the portions are small enough to keep your stomach from growling for about an hour but not enough to shut up any angry rumbling for longer than that. Again I gave the waitress carte blanch as I told her that I wanted mostly vegetarian but also would be open to a chicken dish. Out came a plate of choley, Pindi butter chicken, daal makhani, rice, raita, and naan. The Punjab choley was tasty and spicy, but the amount of cloves used in the dish was overpowering. To balance out the cloves, I ate the dish with the rice and naan. The Pindi butter chicken was milder than what I remember in the past. Then again, the past chef had a love for restaurants in London and Indian restaurants are the rage there for those who love flavourful food. Hearty gravy with a nice amount of spices, the marinade on the chicken was apparently too light to give pop to the chicken. A good complement to the Pindi butter chicken would have been some coconut rice. The highlight of the entrées was the daal makhani. Talk about outstanding! This dish was more like a rajma in a thick gravy. And being able to taste the cheese of the makhani as a hint rather than as a primary flavour made the daal makhani my most loved dish of the evening.

Pindi Chicken

It took me quite a while to come to the decision to blog Vermilion because of the reason I had given before about it being a restaurant that indulges fusion. I cannot classify the cuisine specifically as Indian and I cannot classify it by any particular Latin country. There are others in the city — Sushi Samba Rio, Aria, Mexique, and Red Light, just to name a few — but I will still need to keep to authenticity of a specific ethnic cuisine. Over time I will add other restaurants like Vermilion to the site as special highlights. As to Vermilion, it is a high-end restaurant, so you will pay a high-end tab for your dining experience. The food is delicious, but you will have to be open to multiple flavours in your dishes. River North may have its share of tourist traps, sports bars, lounges, and mannequins with pocketbooks. Yet there are some magnets in the area that attract those with appetites for finer foods. Let Vermilion be the pull that leads you to a table for some Indian and Latin food happiness.

Punjab Choley with Raita

Ka — Hindi
Coma — Spanish
Eat — English

Vermilion on Urbanspoon