Flamingo’s: Holy seafood guac!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
more sophisticated than its location and modest exterior suggest,
Flamingo’s Seafood, which opened in Mount Prospect in September, brings
a new level of Mexican dining to the Northwest suburbs. While upscale
spots like Frontera Grill and ¡Salpicon! have dressed up this cuisine
in Chicago for decades, and with newer restaurants such as Fonda del
Mar and Sol de Mexico continuing the urban theme of upscale,
contemporary and elegant Latin fare, we haven’t seen this kind of
high-end, south-of-the-border food outside the city before.
corner building (the remodeled former Yummy’s Pizza & Gyros)
encloses a long, narrow dining room lined with light wood, brick and
tile, offering seating at knotty pine tables and a half dozen narrow
booths. A fanciful fresco by Martin Ramos, featuring a flock of the
restaurant’s namesake birds, spans a steely open kitchen down one long
side of the room, above a row of clocks set to times in various
international zones. At one end, a bar offers a few stools and displays
an impressive collection of tequilas. More of Ramos' charming paintings
of fairies and flamingos hang throughout.
As at most suburban
restaurants, the ambience and service lean casual, with the affable
waitstaff dressed in adorable pink golf shirts adorned with embroidered
Chef Jorge Almaraz, who’s clocked time with Rosemont's
Rosewood restaurant and Villa Park’s Supreme Lobster & Seafood
Company, commands the kitchen. He and his crew craft an ambitious,
delicious menu of fresh, Mexican-inspired seafood dishes and present
them in generous portions, beautifully arranged and garnished on
lovely, modern Villeroy & Boch chinaware. Prices suit the freshness
and quality of the fish and elegance of the presentations here, with
entrees averaging about $23.
To start, diners get a
complimentary basket of blue-corn chips served with a little dish of
delightful, tart fish ceviche and a second bowl of creamy,
avocado-laced salsa verde. Most dishes come accompanied by crisply
grilled, lightly garlicky baguette slices.
Flamingo’s is a
seafood lovers’ eatery with scant choices for landlubbers. On the
appetizer list, for example, there’s only guacamole — but what a
guacamole it is! Made to order; seasoned to your specifications for
spiciness; chunky with sliced radishes, diced tomato and cilantro; and
mounded high in a marmol-stone molcajete. Of course, it’s even better
if you upgrade to the version with fresh crabmeat mixed in. You also
can get your guacamole mixed with shrimp.
Fresh crab also
fills an admirable crab cake, seared and served with smoky
guajillo-chili sauce and candy-sweet roasted corn. The garlicky
langostinos a la plancha, a platter full of split and pan-roasted fresh
water king prawns, tender in their head-on shells, make another winning
Other choices include coctele campechana, a chilled
mixture of cooked shrimp, octopus and raw oysters in tomato sauce with
chopped avocado, onion and cilantro; fresh bluepoints on the half
shell; and calamares empanisados fritos, fried squid with
Don't miss the crema de langosta, a
big bowl of creamy lobster bisque, lightly seasoned with chipotle
chilies and garnished with a generous helping of lobster meat. Two
entree soups — siete mares, or “seven seas,” filled with shrimp, clams,
scallops, oysters, fish, mussels and crab legs, and shrimp soup — also
figure on the menu.
Entrees range from relatively simple fish
options like filete de tilapia a la diabla — about four big, pan-fried
fish fillets, perfectly cooked and coated in flavorful, spicy pepper
sauce on a mound of vegetable-studded rice, to more complex creations
such as the gorgeously presented brocheta de camaron y chorizo en salsa
aguacate — large marinated shrimp and chunks of slightly dry sausage
interspersed with red onion and chili pepper slices, drizzled with mild
chipotle sauce and plated with confetti rice, a colorful melange of
matchstick vegetables and a squiggle of avocado cream, like a party on
Hearty eaters might want to select the whole red
snapper. It comes in several different styles, but do consider the
delectable Veracruzano. In this version, the plate-sized crispy fish
comes smothered in a zesty sauce incorporating tomatoes, olives,
capers, green onions and peppers.
Those with lighter appetites
can get the fish tacos, a trio of sauteed tilapia filets in fresh corn
tortillas, dressed with lightly spiced chipotle mayonnaise and pico de
gallo, and accompanied by white rice and crunchy jicama slaw.
unusual entrees include filete de matarraya en poblano chile salsa,
skate wing in poblano cream sauce and a Valencia-style seafood paella
for two. The four non-fish entrees are habanero-glazed chicken; a
double-cut pork chop marinated in guajillo-chili honey; filet mignon;
and a New York strip steak.
Desserts, made in-house, include a
very good pastel de tres leches, or three-milk cake, moist but not
soggy, garnished with fresh strawberries and caramel and strawberry
sauces; a nice coconut flan; and a thin, dense pay de queso, a
Mexican-style cheesecake drizzled with cinnamony berry sauce.
tequilas and margaritas, Flamingo's bar serves a list of tropical
drinks, including an excellent, not-too-sweet version of the coco loco,
a rum and creme of coconut concoction.
The service is friendly
and reasonably efficient, if not quite up to the level of the food,
which deserves better than “keep your fork.”
1590 S. Busse Road, Mount Prospect, (847) 364-9988, www.FlamingosSeafood.com
Cuisine: Ambitious seafood with Mexican flavors
Setting: Wood-lined corner building with an upscale, casual vibe
Price range: Appetizers $4 to $15; salads and soups $6 to $15; entrees $14 to $36; desserts $5
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Accepts: American Express, MasterCard and Visa; reservations
Also: Full bar; free parking; daily lunch specials; children's menu available