Phil Vettel reviews Cira and Cabra

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CHICAGO —The Hoxton, a boutique hotel in the Fulton Market District, is home to a pair of restaurants that should be on your radar.

On the ground floor is Cira, which begins at the lobby and its magnificent bar and extends all the way to the open kitchen in back. Chef Chris Pandel’s food has a Mediterranean focus, but that focus has pretty flexible boundaries.

And so the pasta program will include an all-Italian pistachio ravioli, with saffron-orange butter, pistachio and breadcrumbs; and manti, which are Turkish dumplings, filled with lamb and served with yogurt and charred tomatoes.

Other interesting dishes include a nontraditional taramasalata, made with hearth-smoked mackerel whipped into the spread, and fish roe – trout in this case – placed on top. The must-try entree is the brodetto, a harissa-spiced seafood stew with clams, mussels, blood sausage and chorizo. And for dessert, try the mille feuille, a puff-pastry base topped with honey-sweetened tahini and malted-honey ice cream.

Upstairs – I mean all the way upstairs – is Cabra, a rooftop restaurant that shares space with the hotel’s pool. There is outdoor seating, but most of the dining room, including the ceviche bar, can be protected from the elements.

Small plates dominate the menu. The snapper ceviche is a star, mingling with trout roe and dragonfruit over a leche de tigre mixed with ponzu. Causa is a layered dish with a base of mashed Peruvian potatoes; Izard’s version is made with Hawaiian red crab, avocado and pickled green mango.

Flaky, baked empanadas are irresistible, whether it’s the chicken empanadas with pecan-chimichurri sauce, or the goat empanadas with huacatay mayo.

The big dish is called chicharron del puerco, a massive pork shank whose crispy skin masks super-tender meat. It’s very rich, but oh, so good, served with pickled vegetables, soft flatbread and a quartet of dipping sauces.

Fun-desserts include sweet potato doughnuts and various soft-serves; I recommend the mango mint, a tall portion of mango sorbet with minted cream, lime sugar and chocolate crumbles.

Cira and Cabra are at 200 North Green Street. Let’s make it three stars for Cabra and two stars for Cira, both bright new additions to the Fulton Market dining scene.


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