10/17/2012 12:14:00 PM

La Sirena Clandestina: Homestyle Brazilian Cooking Off Restaurant Row

There is something different happening at a few of Chicago’s newest restaurants, something comforting that we hope catches on, a movement away from the highly refined and towards more rustic but no less sophisticated cuisine. We are talking about that warm fuzzy feeling we get while eating at Balena, Trencherman and now the new La Sirena Clandestina.

Event though it sits across from Next, The Aviary, iNG and Moto, the experience of eating John Manion’s Latin cuisine is more reminiscent of chillin' in the chef’s home kitchen than at a fine restaurant. Forty seats not only means a no-reservations policy, but a very intimate experience where no diner is far from the kitchen. The dimly lite space glows thanks to a plated ceiling and distressed metal and wooden accents. When you look into the large windows on the corner of Fulton Market and Morgan St., the space seems black and abandoned, except for the faint flickering of candles.

Manion was making the rounds last night to explain the menu, which is divided into “de la casa,” “de la calle” and “parilla y playa.” Basically the first part of the menu is small plates of street food, like a rotating selection of empanadas. The second part is larger plates meant for sharing that are inspired by the home cooking of Argentina and Brazil. Our favorite part of the menu was the hand written card filled with grilled specials like  head on prawns and tri tip with chimichurri. This is where Manion’s dedication to local ingredients shines with simple preparation.

The cocktail menu was designed by Justin Anderson. The drinks focus on pisco, rum, mezcal, tequila, cachaca and the occasional fernet. The menu is split between classics such as pisco sours and  more complex offerings. May we suggest the shaken Punch Drunk in Buizos made with cachaça, cognac, apricot preserves, tea, fresh lime and housemade ginger beer or the stirred ConquistaDoró with tequila blanco, amontillado sherry, herbal liqueur, blood orange liqueur and bitters? Salude!

954 W. Fulton Mkt.; 312-226-5300

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