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South Side Review: Delicioso Restaurante y Sabroso Grill

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jun 25, 2007 3:00PM

Chef Geno Bahena (Tepatulco) is nothing if not audacious. The mole master is the new “Executive Chef, Mentor, and General Manager” behind an ambitious but odd restaurant concept in the part of the city that spawned our own Kevin Robinson. After paying a visit to Delicioso y Sabroso (10468 S. Indianapolis Blvd., 773-374-6089) we wonder if Bahena fully thought this restaurant through. However, our reservations with Delicioso y Sabroso go way beyond the usual kinks and start-up pains that all new restaurants go through. It makes us wonder if Bahena is placing ambition ahead of the food.

2007_06_dys_1.jpgSituated in a former banquet hall just off the Chicago Skyway, it’s easy to miss, even with its gigantic parking lot. A very tiny sign sits atop a corner of the building, which looked like a car ran into it recently. The idea behind Delicioso y Sabroso is that it’s two restaurants housed in one giant room. Two separate sets of doors in the lobby lead diners through to the restaurant of their choice. Then you walk through and see both restaurants separated by two walls of rolling potted plants and an enormous black-and-white checkered dance floor, which only accentuates the cavernous space between the two concepts. Delicioso Restaurante is the white linen, fine dining concept, with moderately priced waterfowl entrees and impressive presentation. Sabroso Grill is the more casual, no-nonsense cantina for the fajita-and-nachos, pitcher of margaritas crowd.

2007_06_dys_mole.jpgThe two restaurants do share some dishes between menus, including the moles that earned Bahena his reputation at Ixcapulzaco. On the Delicioso side, he’s gone back to featuring a different mole every day, using family recipes and the freshest produce from local markets. Moles on the Delicioso menu are priced at a bargain $14.50-$17.50, depending on the type of mole and what meat is served with it. For diners looking for a wide sample of what Delicioso has to offer, a five-course, chef’s choice, fixed-price dinner is available for $45 that can handily feed two people. Two of the courses from this dinner, beautifully presented butterfly shrimp and impeccably seasoned chicken breast, featured verde and chichilo moles, respectively. The verde mole had a slightly tart flavor that a liberal squeeze of lime heightened, while the chichilo contained a sharp jalapeno bite with an underlying smoky flavor that we couldn’t sop up fast enough with our flour tortillas.

Another must-order dish is the scallop ceviche appetizer ($6.95). The scallops were just right: firm, not rubbery, seasoned with chipotle, serrano, cilantro, and red onions. It was served with homemade chips and some of the freshest slices of avocado we’ve had in a long time. The wine list is pedestrian. Wine snobs won’t like it, but considering the restaurant’s location we understand. What we couldn’t wrap our mind around was the omission of a good Mexican red, like a Baja petite syrah. Margaritas - the staple of any Mexican restaurant worth its salt - are priced at $7 and come on the rocks or blended. Make sure you specify the brand of tequila you want, however. The only knock on Delicioso y Sabroso’s staff, whose service and attention to detail is otherwise excellent, is that they can’t make a good margarita, even after we offered our own helpful tips.

Like any new start-up, Delicioso y Sabroso was out of certain dishes and wines, like the quail that we were hoping to be paired with our chichilo mole, or the vinho verde wine our dinner date ordered. Ultimately, what we found most disconcerting about Delicioso y Sabroso was its use of space. However well-intended Bahena and his partners were in the planning, this is a poor use of such a large room. In particular, on the Delicioso side a spacious and inviting outdoor patio contained only one table and four chairs, when the patio could easily fit 8-10 tables. We also question the need for an outdoor patio in an area noted for its steel mills and industrial corridor. When the doors to the patio were opened, the room was engulfed in the noxious smell from the outside air, which proved to be only less distracting than the space between Delicioso and Sabroso. Furthermore, when there are only twenty-five people spread across two separate dining rooms, as we found ourselves a part of on our visit, one can't help but notice the enormity of the room.

Bahena’s only been executive chef here for close to two months, so it’s our hope that we caught Delicioso y Sabroso in the midst of post-opening road bumps. We do think that Delicioso y Sabroso has potential, but what it really needs is more hands-on involvement from Bahena. Tepatulco is the cash cow of the two, but with some tweaks to the menu (more cross-pollination between menus, or the ability to order from both menus on both sides of the room) and better use of the space (a mariachi band, perhaps? Or a dj, to encourage dancing on the floor and interaction between the diners on each side.), Delicioso y Sabroso could become a restaurant worth negotiating the Skyway to visit.

Delicioso y Sabroso is open Wednesday through Sunday. Sabroso’s hours of operation are 2 p.m. - 9 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, 2 p.m. - 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Delicioso’s hours of operation are 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.