By A. J. Goldsmith, GazeboNews correspondent
A new eating adventure called Fish Head Restaurante & Cantina has come to the North Shore, bringing South American flavors and tastes to Highwood.
No need to fly south on a crowded airplane to enjoy the exquisite food of South America when you can eat close to home comfortably in a modernistic setting that emulates a cruise ship complete with mirrored portholes. Just set your GPS for 810 Sheridan Road in Highwood where Ecuadorian-Born Robert Viteri has corralled sea and land favorites of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and, of course Ecuador. He confided to Gazebonews that fish heads are a prime ingredient of flavorful South American broths. Viteri is also an owner of Taco Joint Chicago at La Salle and Ontario streets.
Wild rainbow trout from Canada, salmon from the Pacific Northwest, corvina from Ecuador, Chilean sea bass, catfish and seafood are featured on the menu, but are not alone. There are several regional meat and chicken dishes as well as vegetarian dishes on request.
Empanadas are a house specialty. Empanadas are a fried or baked pastry shell filled with shrimp, ground beef or cheese.
Pescado (fish and seafood) dinner entrees range from $12.95 for rainbow trout fillet with quinoa to a savory seafood/quinoa paella at $20. (Quinoa is a high-protein seed that has gained popularity recently). Argentine-style grilled steak is $12 while tenderloin with shrimp and sautéed potatoes is $22. There are three special chicken dishes. Prices are about 20 percent less for lunch.
We made reservations for 6 p.m. Saturday and when we arrived a couple of friends from Highland Park were leaving. We asked them to join us for coffee while we began our meal. They were pleased with their dinners, but their newly-poured coffee needed to be warmed.
For starters we shared a queso (cheese) – filled empanada and the Machupichu ceviche of covina fish marinated in lime juice with pickled red onion and a side of squash. Covina is found in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Ecuador and Peru.
We shared and enjoyed both of our main courses. The shrimp flambé in cognac was covered with chef’s cream sauce and served with potatoes and a pyramid of rice. The shrimp were a good size and succulent. Almejas a la Parrilla (a dozen, grilled little neck clams with a side dish of fried sweet potatoes) completed our platos fuerte (entrees). Though on the menu, paella de mariscos con quinoa was not available.
Items on the soup menu range from $12-$17 and include Sango de Pescado (fish, shrimp and green plantains broth with a dash of cilantro and Cazuela (casserole) de Mariscos (clams, mussels, baby octopus, fish, shrimp and vegetables).
The Equator runs through Ecuador. So one Ceviche (raw fish dish) is called Mitad del Mundo (middle of the earth) and includes cooked shrimp, olive oil, red onions, lime, orange juice, cilantro and fresh diced tomatoes at $10.
The dessert menu included vanilla ice cream or ricotta cheesecake with South American raspberry marinade and pineapple sherbet.
The restaurant seats 60 and conversation is not challenged. The cantina layout is cozy and very friendly. Latin music softly plays in the background.
So far the 350-bottle wine cabinet features mostly wines from Chile and Argentina with more varieties to be added in time. Viteri encourages diners to bring and store their own favorites in the cabinet. Wine and beer prices are reasonable for this area.
Service was friendly and attentive, though still working out kinks. One of the owners came by to assure our satisfaction. We will be back again and will encourage our friends to try this welcome addition to the North Shore.
Fish Head Restaurant/Cantina is open for lunch (11 am – 2 p.m.) and dinner (5 p.m.-?) Tuesday through Sunday. The telephone number for reservations is (847)780-4199. The website is not up yet.