Chef Kike made the sauces amazing at Frontera Grill for so many years, when I heard he opened a new restaurant in Clarendon Hills I had to make the drive from Chicago for a date with Etta. High expectations were exceeded by the top notch restaurant Aguamiel, named after the honeywater of the agave plant (that becomes tequila and mezcal) which can be fermented into pulque. The place is situated in the center of town among gift shops and an ice cream parlor and abundant parking. Inside the restaurant was toasty in winter and cozy with a fireplace, hand blown glasses on the tables matched by hanging lampshades at the bar, and intriguing art including humanscale sculpture, paintings and the restaurant’s insignia in metal above the fireplace. Chef Kike’s signature sauces shine at Aguamiel. From the table salsas served with tortilla chips to the spicy brightly acidic tomato guajillo sauce cutting the rich slow cooked shortribs, the flavors were big and bold.
The best may have been the smoky serrano chile sauce accompanying the grilled shrimp entree- deeply flavorful, complex, a hot herbacious campfire. Ceviche was a mouthwateringly acidic starter with albacore tuna cooked in the acid of lime, the heat of chiles accented by the salt of diced olives. Sopes featured rich shredded beef in buttery corn masa complimented by roasted tomatoes and onions. The food was so delicious. The 1800 margarita- blanco tequila, fresh squeezed lime, limey and bright with a touch of sweetness from agave nectar, and cadillac margarita- smoother and rounder from tequila aged in oak, orange liquor lingering on the palette, were both excellent, as was the prompt service. Chef Kike who worked for so many years at Frontera Grill has a place whose standards of Mexican cuisine and service deserve to be around for many years to come. Well done and thank you, Chef.