Terra American Bistro, located in the long-vacant Café Luciano space off Green Bay in Evanston, opened in late May.
They’ve reworked the space, losing the ersatz trellises and Tuscan-sunny, sponge-painted walls. It has a much warmer feel now, and they’ve added dining space by annexing the old dry cleaner next door.
As for portion sizes, they are generous, even though they’ve jumped on the small plate trend. And we were helped tremendously in ordering by our server, a veteran of many hotels and restaurants here and abroad. He helped us navigate the dining experience beautifully. And there’s a lot to cover on Executive Chef David Perlick’s wide-ranging menu.
Appetizers and Small Plates
All breads are made in house, from the shards of cheesy, crispy lahvash to the naan bread that came with the Mediterranean Hummus Plate ($9), perfect to wrap around the crisp falafel, hummus and veggies that graced the platter.
The Wild Pink Shrimp “Coctail de Cameron” ($10) had winning flavor, with chunks of juicy shrimp, avocado and cucumber in a spicy tomato-cilantro-serrano chile blend, served with a pile of fresh tortilla chips for dipping and scooping.
I’d return just for the Fried Goat Cheese Croquettes ($8), crunchy on the outside, meltingly tender within, filled with tangy goat cheese and served with an agave-sweetened huckleberry sauce (use that sparingly; a little goes a long way). I wish the sauce had been a little more savory, perhaps herbal.
We puzzled over a special of Chorizo-Stuffed Figs ($9), wrapped in bacon (gild that lily!) and served bizarrely with an arugula/strawberry salad, again, too sweet for our taste.
Entrees and Larger Plates
If you’re looking for a good, meaty burger, they’ve got an apt candidate. Billed as “The Ultimate Angus Steak Burger” ($15), it’s perched on a housemade brioche bun and topped with a slab of braised pork belly, aged Cheddar, and smoked tomato aioli. The fries were the only disappointment there, neither hot nor crispy enough.
Seafood entrees fared well. The French Quarter Jambalaya ($23), chock-full of wild shrimp, chunks of grilled andouille and chicken, had a nice Cajun kick to it, although the rice was a little too al dente.
While the Fennel-Crusted Ahi Tuna “Au Poivre” ($26) arrived rarer than ordered, it picked up good flavor from the fennel seed and peppercorns. The accompaniments of fingerling potato confit and crispy shallots overwhelmed the dish. Not so the Pan-Roasted Lake Superior Whitefish ($19), which paired beautifully with the fregola sarda (tiny Italian pasta, similar to Israeli couscous), asparagus, lemon and arugula, with chimichurri sauce (typically served with Argentine steak) standing by to bring it all together.
Desserts (share and reduce your guilt)
For desserts, there’s a Chocolate Lava Cake ($9), yet another (albeit successful) take on the standard; fresh Berries ($8), beautifully plated and topped with fresh whipped cream; a decent Bananas Foster ($9) and a highly touted Pecan Pie ($8) that turned out to be meh.
The place was packed on a recent Saturday night, and certainly there’s something on the menu to please just about everyone. They’ve got their liquor license and they are ready to rumble. They certainly hit the ground running—perhaps because they already own Montarra in Algonquin (worth a drive). It’s clear this is not their first rodeo.
3.5/5 stars (B+)
Terra American Bistro
2676 Green Bay Rd.