Santo Cielo translates to “good heavens,” and while the restaurant, on the fifth floor of the Hotel Indigo, isn’t exactly scraping the sky, its downtown Naperville views are very pretty.
And when the weather’s nice, Santo Cielo’s windows retract downwards, turning the entire restaurant into an open-air cafe.
Santo Cielo is from the Bien Trucha group, known for its casual Mexican restaurants, but this time, culinary director Abel Cortes has gone upscale global, with a menu embracing European and Asian influences, and some cross-cultural cooking besides.
For example, Cortes serves charred green beans (01.46) with a Korean kimchi vinaigrette and a classic French gribiche sauce. Hamachi aguachile (00.13) has Mexican roots, but the cucumber-yuzu granita above and barley-rice mix below speak to other culinary traditions.
What the menu calls “shrimp and jicama” turn out to be tacos, sorta; the filling has shrimp and charred corn tossed in chipotle aioli, but the shells are slices of pure jicama, which actually balance the spicy interior quite nicely.
Other classic dishes contain hidden surprises. Housemade pappardelle noodles are the backbone of a dish that includes crab meat and bay scallops, but finger chilies add a good measure of zing. Mussels in tomato-basil sauce contain chunks of crunchy chistorra, a Basque sausage not unlike chorizo. And pork belly gets an all-Asian treatment, cut into crispy-skin pieces, tossed in fish sauce and mixed with bok choy, broccolini, spiced cucumbers and white rice.
Desserts are reassuringly classic; there’s no geographic uncertainty to this French chocolate cake, intensely chocolatey, topped with coffee ice cream and served with blood-orange crumble.
I give Santo Cielo, 123 Water Street in Naperville, two stars. This is the Bien Trucha’s group’s first foray into fine dining, and after eating here, all I can ask is, what took you so long?