900 E. Grand, Chicago, IL, 60611 , Streeterville
Price: $$$$$

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Lirica - Chicago

Lirica in the Sable hotel on Navy Pier presents a largely Spanish-inspired menu of well-executed dishes. On the tourist-heavy pier, you might not expect much in the way of great food, but the Tribune's Louisa Chu tells us "the food at Lírica was so much better than it had to be."

A classic, the Spanish tortilla -- a kind of potato and egg omelet -- is served at Lirica, with a twist: it's more pie-like than the traditional Spanish version, and it's stuffed with spinach, roasted peppers and arugula, with cheese on top and potatoes offered as a side rather than integrated into the omelet. It's very good.

Patatas bravas, another classic of the Spanish table, are done in the more traditional style, with crispy potato chunks in a spicy aioli, pretty much a guaranteed table-pleaser. This very popular side dish is almost required eating at any Spanish restaurant.

There are also dishes with a distinctly more Mexican accent, like a very good taco of carne asada and guacamole, which many expect at any restaurant that has a menu with Mexican dishes, and the one-two punch of red meat and avocado is a winning combination..

Our favorite Mexican-forward dish is the Torta de Milanesa de Pollo, a kind of pounded chicken, fried, and served in a delightful morita chili sauce, along with a side of refried beans, grilled red onions, a cut above many other versions of this dish that you'll find in Chicago.

As you can see, the Lirica menu is pan-Latin America, and there is even a representative Argentinian dish: very fine empanadas.

Cocktails are more strongly Mexico-centric, with several tequila-based margaritas (classic, pineapple, and peach-vanilla. The wines, however, tilt back to Spain, with many good-looking riojas and cavas.

If the weather is seasonable, by all means opt to sit out on the patio overlooking the harbor, a main draw -- along with the good food -- for this restaurant.