It wasn’t until this past weekend that I realized there are some really enticing small towns that reside along the river outside Chicago. With their boutique shops and attractive landscaping, the main streets are overflowing with restaurants. It was on one of these streets in the small city of Geneva, IL that we had the pleasure of experiencing Bien Trucha.
My brother-in-law and his wife had told us about the place prior to our arrival so the anticipation had been building for a while. This little restaurant and its Mexican tapas are in high demand. Apparently the restaurant began with about six tables and has since expanded to twelve or so.
Lunch service began at noon and we arrived early to avoid a line which we’ve heard is the norm. Surprised to be the first ones at the door at 11:45 am, it took a mere 30 seconds before others started filing in. By the time the restaurant opened the line was long enough to fill every table inside.
The atmosphere was an inviting mix of quaint, cute, rustic and authentic. The dining room gave hints of a romantic evening ambiance, but at the lunch hour it was bustling with couples, friends and families, loud conversation and few cocktails round the tables.
I was still trying to soak everything in, with my camera in hand of course, as we were quickly asked for our drink order. I barely had time to look at the menu as the waiter rattled off several margarita selections. A quick glance and three were ordered at our table – Pinasada with grilled pineapple, Pepino or cucumber, and the Flor de Jamaica with hibiscus flower extract. The water of the day was also ordered which was mango.
My drink was the Pepino and the rim came adorned with a chili-type salt that melded the flavors together. It was refreshing with that familiar tequila kick. Yes, cucumber is a wonderful ingredient in a summer cocktail.
The menu boasts a creative list of appetizers, soups, salads and tortas, but the real draw are the tacos. Each order comes with four, tapas-style, served on a wooden platter.
Before we took on the tacos, we began with the guacamole of the day. What distinguishes the guacamole of the day from the traditional guacamole is that it is topped with fresh fruit. Ours had grapes and apparently watermelon has been the fruit of choice on other visits. For me, the texture was perfect as far as guac goes. Creamy, but still slightly chunky and the sweet grapes added a nice contrast with the slight heat of peppers and tart lime.
Still not done with starters we continued to look over the menu. My husband immediately noticed the ceviche. We weren’t sure how our hosts would feel about it, but fortunately they were game. I say fortunately because the ceviche was delicious, not to mention beautifully plated.
While the standard selection on the menu was with tilapia there was a special the day we were there. Our choice was the ceviche with shrimp, strawberry and melon with an avocado mousse. I’m not extremely experienced in ceviche, but this creation was outstanding.
We chose three different varieties of tacos, and with four people at our table this meant that we all got one of each. The Pescado came highly recommended by our family and included beer battered, fried tilapia topped with a red cabbage slaw made with chipotle-morita aioli. Crispy, crunchy, spicy, creamy – these tacos had it all. The red cabbage really added to the presentation as well.
As a side note, I was unfamiliar with morita. It turns out that Chile Morita is a small reddish-purple chile. It can literally be translated too small blackberry pepper.
Next up were the Pastor tacos with ancho-guajillo marinated pork, morita salsa and a piece of grilled pineapple. As you can imagine the sweet pineapple tasted wonderful with the mildly spicy flavor of the meat and salsa.
The grand finale was the Bien Trucha taco. These had both grilled skirt steak and homemade chorizo. The salsa was roasted tomatillo-serrano. What a way to end our meal! The chorizo really made this one for me. There was just a little bit added, but the flavor took over in a very good way.
To be honest, there is no way I could pick a favorite. Each item we sampled had its own appealing characteristics and individual flavors. Visiting Bien Trucha reminded me how much I crave authentic food which we tend to have very little of where we live unless you want a southern favorite.
There is little if anything on the menu that has been altered to appeal to the US American palate. Even the style of service from the refilling of water to serving sodas in a can was incredibly Latin American.
Bien Trucha is the type of place where you adapt to the food, the food doesn’t adapt to you. The type of place that makes this former expat think – perhaps this whole repatriation thing isn’t so bad after all.
410 West State Street
Geneva, IL 60134-2104