June 15, 2015

Modern Spanish spot Salero was recently named to Chicago Magazine's 2015 list of Best New Restaurants. It's been on my must-try list for awhile and I finally got a chance to check it out for a weekday dinner. Salero is from the same team behind WOOD, a neighborhood restaurant that's a block from my apartment. Salero is located in the West Loop on "Randolph Row" and features a menu of starters and large plates, as well as an option to do a five course tasting.  My friend Katrina who joined me for dinner and I were pretty hungry so we enjoyed three starters and two main plates (yes, there was also room for dessert...somehow).

The first starter we tried was the grilled octopus with cabeza croquetas, pimenton aioli, and green olive-caper salsa, on top of a bitter greens salad. The octopus was extremely tender and well cooked with some beautiful charring on the outside. The cabeza croquetas were probably my favorite part of the dish though, even knowing I was eating pork brain (don't knock it 'til you try it!).

Salero Chicago
Grilled Octopus
Our next starter was very light and interesting: grilled white asparagus with poached shrimp, fennel mousse, and pea tendrils. The shrimp was well cooked and tender, while the fennel mousse packed a flavor punch.

Salero Chicago
White Asparagus & Poached Shrimp
One of the dishes recommended to me by others who had previously dined at Salero was the chorizo stuffed quail. The stuffed quail is sliced into even pieces and served with wilted spinach, garlic, golden raisins, pine nuts ,and a vibrant piquillo pepper puree. While the dish was flavorful, I don't think I'm a big fan of quail because I didn't love the texture. This is probably not something I'd order again.

Salero Chicago
Chorizo Stuffed Quail
Next were our two main plates, both of which were fantastic. The grilled whole Maine lobster immediately got our attention on the menu. It was similar to a Spanish paella and served with chorizo, Bomba paella rice, Manila clams, cherry tomatoes, grilled peppers and a dollop of lemon aioli. We stirred in the lemon aioli to give the dish a bright and creamy touch. This was the best thing I ate all night--I loved the intense seasonings and flavors and of course the huge chunks of lobster meat.

Salero Chicago
Grilled Whole Maine Lobster
Our last entree was the braised short rib. I was a little surprised to see short rib on the menu considering it's spring, but now that we're moving toward summer, this dish is no longer on the menu. The meat was insanely tender and had strong notes of cinnamon, with a hint of spice. I loved the seasonal morel mushrooms served on the side as well. I think they had a touch of vinegar which really cut away at the richness of the short rib. My only complaint? I didn't have enough room to eat more of it!

Salero Chicago
Braised Short Rib
I seriously had zero stomach real estate left when we were served two decadent desserts. I'm not usually a flan fan but Salero's flan made me a convert. It was almost too beautiful to eat. The flan was infused with fresh cheese and annatto seed, and topped with blood orange gel and saba caramel. Holy yum.

Salero Chicago
Flan de Queso Fresco
The second dessert was churros and chocolate served with espresso pudding, milk jam, and whipped-salted chocolate. How amazing do all of those sound together? We loved the whipped chocolate and non-greasy churros, but felt the churros were a little on the salty side.

Salero Chicago
Churro Y Chocolate
Overall I can't say I was completely blown away by everything at Salero, but I will say there were some definite hits. The grilled lobster and short rib were by far our best choices of the night, and I thought the flan was also worth trying. I'd be up for going back to check out the new seasonal menu options too. 

I'm giving Salero 3.5 ghosts out of 5 for their flavorful menu options and attentive service. 

621 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60661
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