Macarena Tapas

Restaurants, Spanish Suburbs
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Macarena Tapas
Photograph: Kate Cole
Macarena Tapas

“There’s only one Ferran Adrià,” Anthony Bourdain once quipped, “and chances are, you ain’t him.” John Borras, chef of Naperville’s Macarena Tapas, would certainly agree, though elements of his menu clearly reflect his training under the “father of molecular gastronomy” at Adrià’s El Bulli, outside of Barcelona. Now back in Illinois, Borras turns out a handful of flashy dishes reminiscent of his stint at the culinary landmark, as well as traditional Spanish small plates more in line with chef de cuisine Jose Marcial’s time spent at popular local tapas spot Meson Sabika.

The duo successfully executes mango “caviar”—a classic Adrià prep—with juice congealed to yield balls of fruit essence served in small circular tins (pictured). Adrià-esque skinless “ravioli” pop open in the mouth with intense flavors of peach, chocolate or squid ink. Similarly, the crispy shells of “liquid empanadas” encase warm vegetable broth; a splash of piquillo pepper sauce finishes the dish. But not all of the experimental dishes are as successful: The, chocolate-covered shrimp and a marshmallow–Manchego cheese napoleon seem errors in judgment.

Not quite so avant-garde but still successful are delicate pencil-thin hearts of palm stuffed with goat-cheese mousse and tender grilled octopus dusted with paprika and set on crispy pan-cooked potatoes. With predictable tapas like marinated olives and garlicky potato salad, even less-daring diners should find something to like.

One might assume the place was named after the town in Seville, but Borras’s brother and co-owner, Victor, believes the moniker is memorable because “everyone knows the song ‘Macarena’ from Los del Rio.” If you can handle both the nails-on-chalkboard recoil that the song conjures and the drive to Naperville, you’ll be rewarded with well-prepared traditional tapas as well as gels, powders and push-the-envelope preparations that typify offerings at pricier experimental restaurants, but at just around $7 a plate.

By: David Tamarkin


Venue name: Macarena Tapas
Address: 618 S Rte 59
Cross street: at Aurora Rd
Opening hours: Dinner (closed Mon)
Transport: Train: Burlington/Santa Fe to Route 59.
Price: Average tapa: $7
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