Above: Leña Brava dining room

New Chicago Restaurants

Chicago never has a shortage of tempting new restaurants. These two establishments in the popular restaurant district west of the Loop, where upscale eateries jostle with warehouses for space, are two of the most noteworthy.

Leña Brava

One of Chicago’s most difficult reservations is Leña Brava, the newest venture by celebrity chef Rick Bayless, known for his PBS cooking show and acclaimed Mexican restaurants such as Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Xoco. “Leña” means “firewood” in Spanish, a reference to the kitchen’s preferred method of cooking.

One appetizer on the Baja-inspired menu combined the sweet and charred flavor of roasted pineapple with slightly pungent goat cheese, tangy orange-lime broth and hazelnut salsa macha. Another successfully married yellowtail ceviche with avocado cream, green chile adobo and refreshing daikon, cucumber and fennel. I also loved our main courses of black cod with spicy “pastor” marinade and sweet pineapple-shiso salsa; and short rib with smoky Oaxacan pasilla salsa and rich cauliflower purée.

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Above: Leña Brava dining room

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