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Cariño - Chicago

Cariño is a fine-dining Mexican restaurant with a tasting menu, which makes it relatively rare in Chicago. There are white-tablecloth restaurants like this with tasting menus in Mexico City (think of Pujol or Quintonil), but in Chicago, such restaurants are far from commonplace.

As reported in Chicago Eater days before it opened, "Cariño is an upcoming fine dining restaurant where [Norman] Fenton is both executive chef and co-owner. He says folks could wear shorts if that’s what makes them comfortable. The tasting menu, they’re aiming for about $190 per person, will feature 12 to 16 courses with influences from Central and South America, with a noticeable Mexican influence: 'We’re going to over deliver and undersell,' says Fenton."

Cariño is not the place to go if you're looking for tacos, beans and rice -- though it would not surprise us if Fenton serves up some cheffy version of such Mexican restaurant standards. Instead of the usual (and inarguably delicious) Mexican restaurant options, expect surprises. The Michelada, traditionally a beer with spicy tomato juice, is at Cariño a creative combination of beer foam, oyster and Clamato pearls (!). The ravioli (yes, we know: not exactly Mexican) presents sweet corn with two rare fungi: truffles and huitlacoche (eaten since the days of the Aztec and before) There are tacos (por que no!), but at Cariño, the tacos are done up dorado (golden style), and filled with chicken liver, adobo sauce and petite lettuce.

Even if you're not a fan of offal, you're probably going to like the sweetbreads, dressed up with Mole Chiapaneco (a lesser known Mexican sauce with prunes and olives), banana and parsnip.

About the wine, expect to see a good number of Latin American vinos on the menu. “If it’s not from Latin America," says Fenton, "you can’t get it here." There will be spirits like tequila and mezcal (por supuesto!), and there will also be Latin American whisky and pox, which some call the "moonshine of Chiapas.".