Went back to Chil last Friday. I opted for a Lenten-approved all-fish, non-meat menu, starting with a spinach salad with goat cheese, pecans and shreds of salty white farmers cheese dressed in a guava-based vinaigrette. An incredibly good salad, but a lighter hand with the vinaigrette would have made it even better. Those last few leaves of soaked spinach were cloyingly sweet and slightly dampened my earlier enthusiasm. I'll have it again, with the dressing on the side.
Then came the marlin ceviche, which was extremely fresh as always, and even more abundant than I remember. Four giant tortilla chip triangles loaded up with generous scoops of ceviche. It's built to share with at least one other, but I was on my own with a seafood hater co-diner. I managed. I guess I don't mind the inclusion of olives in ceviche, but my absolute favorite ceviches never include them.
The halibut entree with achiote sauce was very satisfying, with annatto and sour orange notes creating haunting complexity and depth. The Spanish-type rice served with it was thankfully unassuming but mediocre as always. I'd love for Geno to tinker with a new basic rice recipe--he can do better.
I also found myself wondering if Chil's tortillas are home-made all of the time. My waiter assured me they were, and I had to take him at his word, but they had a taste and uniformity that made them seem more factory than home. Still okay, but...
Service was excellent--waiter was from Vera Cruz (not Guerrero?)and incredibly knowledgeable about wines and tequilas. I think his name was Ramon. The malbec I ordered (co-diner had carne asada and chicken tamales) was met with approval and a lengthy discussion of the vintage, winery and terroir of this particular South American, and he waxed similarly poetic in recommending a tequila--an excellent Patron anejo which went surprisingly well when alternately sipped with the after-dinner Intelligentsia house coffee.
Room was only 2/3rds full on a Friday night, which is always bittersweet--good that we had room to manuever and bad that a favorite place wasn't doing better business. I wonder if his ever-expanding empire is beginning to cannibalize business?