Mouth of the border: For years, Cafe Brazil (see review above) was one of just a handful of South American spots in town, but now we're about to get more cuisine from countries far south of the border. This fall, the old home of Chives, at 1120 East Sixth Avenue, will be transformed into Piscos, a restaurant that specializes in North-meets-South American dishes. Just four blocks away, Los Troncos, at 730 East Sixth Avenue, has added Bolivian food to its Mexican menu because the owners, brothers Gerardo and Jorge Ramirez Jr. and their dad, Jorge Ramirez Sr., are originally from Bolivia. "We wanted to show people the good food there is in our country," says Gerardo. "So we're putting two dishes on as specials on the weekends, and there is another dish that's available all the time."
That would be the pique macho ($10), strips of rib eye sauteed with andouille sausage, fried potatoes and vegetables, with the traditional South American garnish of hard-boiled eggs and black olives. It makes for an interesting mouthful, with contrasting tastes and textures--and the macho comes in a macho-enough portion that you may not need to eat again for a week. "We're also doing fricase all the time on the weekends," Gerardo says. "It's sort of a soup, with pork and white hominy, green onions, parsley and potatoes."
Wash it all down with the Bolivian national drink, guarapo, which is made from grapes. "At home, the guarapo is fermented for six months or a year before a big party, but it will knock you right out. Our guarapo is much less strong, and people have told me they think it tastes sort of like sangria."
Speaking of drinks, I don't know what was in the cosmopolitan I drank at Sevilla at the Icehouse (1801 Wynkoop Street) the other night, but it wasn't the standard vodka with Cointreau or triple sec and a splash of cranberry juice and lime. My first drink tasted like a maraschino cherry, which it happened to contain; when I asked the bartender to leave the fruit out of a second round, the drink still tasted like a maraschino cherry. I would have asked the mixologist for his peculiar recipe, but it was tough enough getting his attention as it was. And eliciting more than a mumbled response to our requests for things that would up his tip--plates, for example--was out of the question.
But we were so eager to try the new menu that we skipped the plates and dug right in. The revised roster is the work of chef Antonio Sanchez, who trained with Wolfgang Puck executive chef Guy Leroy in L.A. Leroy actually designed Sevilla's new menu and worked up the recipes; from what we sampled, Sanchez, who's been with Sevilla for ten months, is doing a good job with them. The Paella Classica ($12.95) was chock-full of chorizo, chicken, shrimp, clams, mussels, calamari, peas and olives--and flavor. The sausage really came through, the intermittent tang of olives was a nice touch, and the rice had obviously not been overcooked, which was a complaint I'd heard about Sevilla's previous paella (although I'd liked the original offering enough to give it a Best of Denver in 1998). This menu also features a lengthier list of tapas; we sampled the spicy grilled steak banderillas ($5.25), three skewers of slightly fatty but succulent steak on skewers, served with a habanera sauce that could have been a little hotter.
But the action at Sevilla this Tuesday night was plenty hot, since it's the evening that the place offers free salsa lessons, and the dancers kept spilling out of the back room and making their moves by the bar. All told, the scene was much more cosmopolitan than my drink.
Sevilla majority owner Bart DeLorenzo later apologized for the bartender. "We serve great cosmopolitans and we have excellent bartenders," he said. "The guy you had was a stand-in, because the general manager got called out of town."
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Except for a few kinks such as that one, Sevilla is doing well, DeLorenzo added. In fact, the concept is so appealing to Wolfgang Puck--the person, not the restaurant--that his company is helping to open two more Sevillas next year: one in Las Vegas, the other on Ocean Drive in L.A.'s South Beach. "They're actually going to handle the opening," DeLorenzo said. "Since they've already reworked the menu, it should be a good expansion."
Meanwhile, DeLorenzo is working on a joint effort with Rio Cigars, which is scheduled to open in mid-August in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center across from Todai restaurant (see--if you dare--my review of Todai's seafood buffet, "No Day at the Beach," in the July 8 issue). DeLorenzo has his own cigar lounge at Sevilla, The Furnace, which occupies the space that was once the Icehouse's furnace room; it's now decorated with candles and comfy seats. He'll be working with Rio owner Antonio Sanchez--yes, that's the same name as Sevilla's chef, but it's not the same person--to bring rollers from Cuba to both sites. So while Sevilla will offer Rio's cigars at the Furnace, Rio will offer Sevilla's tapas in its lounge. DeLorenzo promises a very well-ventilated lounge, since a mall might seem an unlikely place to find a cigar bar.
Critic's choice: If you've always wanted to be a critic, now's your chance to contribute to the 2000 Zagat Guide. Send a self-addressed, stamped, business-sized envelope to Zagat Survey, 1424 Fillmore Street, Denver, CO 80206, and you'll be sent this year's questionnaire, which asks for your opinion on 850 area restaurants. The deadline is July 21; if you participate, a free copy of the guide will be your reward.