Carnivale is that fabulous celebration before Lent, but in Chicago, it is a famed restaurant for its colorful decorations (Figure 1) and foods.
To quench your thirst, Carnivale offers an entire list of unique drinks. I first had a coconut mojito (Figure 2), which at first did not taste like anything special. But then, the mojito turned into a burst of coconut after every sip.
I also had the passion fruit and banana calpirinha (Figure 3), which is what I would call a man’s girly cocktail. It’s sweet and it’s strong.
But next time, I would totally get the cotton candy cocktail. I saw a waiter carry two by, and they were literally tall cocktail glasses with a giant pink cotton candy puff on top.
Between Andrew and me, we ordered an appetizer and three entrees. Somehow, the expediter in the kitchen screwed up, and after 25 minutes of waiting, all four dishes came out at the same time. The man who brought out the dishes seemed so confused because we were sitting at a two-person table that could fit only two platters comfortably. And then we were faced with the difficult decision of which dish to plow into first.
In any case, our appetizer of arepas (Figure 4) was definitely worth the wait. The three slabs of pork belly were laid on top of corn cheese cakes then topped off with plantains, black beans, jicama, avocado and a lime puree. All together, it was excellence in Latino textures and flavors.
The Vegetariana entrée (Figure 5) is perhaps one of the best tamales I’ve had in Chicago. This soft blue corn tamale is on top of a bed of poblano peppers, seasonal vegetables and a slice of squash in a thick Brunkow cheese sauce. And to add some roasted flavor to this dish, it was sprinkled with sesame.
When I saw the paella on the menu, I had to order it (Figure 6). It was relatively yummy compared to some of the other paellas I’ve had in Chicago. Best part was how fresh the seafood was and how well cooked every scallop, shrimp, mussel, clam and calamari was. The chorizos had a ton of flavor that was literally infused into the rice. Definitely a must-have dish here.
Churrasco (Figure 7) is a grilled beef from Latin American countries, and unfortunately, it wasn’t done much justice at Carnivale. We had ordered it medium-rare, but this beautiful slab of beef tenderloin came out blue, with a cold center. Andrew was of course delighted so he had half and I sent the remainder back to be cooked some more. But then it came back with one end cooked rare and the other end well done. REALLY?! The herb chimichurri on top was a saving grace, and at least the sweet potato puree perfectly contrasted with its crisp.
- Try to cotton candy drink – it’s worth it even if it doesn’t taste that great.
- If you order beef, there is a chance that it’s not cooked properly depending on who the line cook is.
- The environment is very fun – great for a date or a celebration with friends/family!