Review – Cafe IbericoPosted: January 23, 2011
Well first off, having publicized this project to friends as “my food blog”, it might be appropriate to clarify what I mean by this.
This isn’t a blog about cooking, it’s actually a blog about eating. There may be some offhand references to recipes, baking, and the like. But ultimately, I came here to eat and write about eating.
I went to Cafe Iberico last night for dinner, on LaSalle in the North Side. My party arrived at 7 and we were seated around 7:45. Even for a Saturday night, this place was completely packed. Fortunately the restaurant has several dining rooms, so the parties ahead of us were seated at a fairly steady rate.
The menu was extensive and vegetarian friendly. The portions were generous and the pricing was fair. We ordered about 2 dishes per person and the price per plate ranged from $6-12. The food came out in a timely manner, though the service was spotty. The food was decent. We ordered the salpicon de mariscos, ensalata mixta, mushrooms, paella iberico, queso de cabra, and some roasted red peppers. We had dessert, as well. A banana in caramel sauce with vanilla ice cream. Though the food tasted fine, it left me feeling unsatisfied.
Maybe the vague sense of dissatisfaction is a part of the tapas experience. Eating tapas is basically like eating a bunch of appetizers. They do taste good, but there’s little substance. Beyond that, there’s no sense of a progression in courses. There are no specials and after a little while, everything starts to taste like well executed bar food. I noticed that almost every person in the 60 person dining room was holding a glass or pitcher of sangria (which went a long way to explain the noise level, which escalated steadily through the night).
But I know that this isn’t the way tapas has to be. Take Avec, for instance. Avec is an excellent restaurant in the West Loop on Randolph (right next to Blackbird) which features small plates and communal style dining. Avec is more expensive than Cafe Iberico, and certainly less group friendly, but the food at Avec is much better.
My problem with Cafe Iberico isn’t necessarily with the food. It’s with the menu. I’ve eaten at restaurants with humbler aspirations than Cafe Iberico and I’ve eaten at restaurants with loftier aspirations than Cafe Iberico. But the point is, these other restaurants have aspirations. Iberico lacks a sense of direction and inspiration and is not, to me, a great food experience.
Dinner at Cafe Iberico – around $25