While Carnivale is massive and lively while attracting late-night revelers in Fulton Market, its former chef is taking a quieter, neighborhood approach to his new Wicker Park restaurant. Amaru opens tonight on North Avenue, combining various Latin American flavors, particularly from Colombia, where chef Rodolfo Cuadros’s family lives.
Take a look inside the restaurant here. Cuadros grew up in New Jersey, but also has spent time living in Colombia. His menu (posted here) reflects a diverse number of influences. Pollo criollo is one example, as it’s a product of French-Creole, African, and Dominican influences. Cuadros adds one more to that mix as he grills the chicken over Japanese charcoal (binchotan).
His mother was a seamstress which is where Cuadros said he got his love for working with his hands. He handcrafts gnocchi that’s made with yucca. The yucca provides a better texture compared to potatoes, Cuardos said. It also keeps the dish gluten free, which could be important in a neighborhood like Wicker Park. There’s also a burger with Cuban-style ground beef.
When he presided over Carnivale, a Fulton Market pioneer, he had a much larger dining room to worry about. He likes the smaller space in Amaru. He talks about the major effect fresh-squeezed lime juice has on ceviche. He intends to serve a special ceviche of the day: “It tastes so much better,” Cuadros said.
Unlike Carnivale, or Cabra (Boka Restaurant Group and Stefanie Izard’s new Peruvian spot), Amaru isn’t a flashy space, Cuadros said. And that suits him fine. The father of two loves Chicago, and though immigrants in America are under fire right now, Cuadros and his wife are determined. They resisted the urge to move and opted to stay in America to open a restaurant. They hope Chicago embraces Cuadros’s first restaurant in the same way he’s embraced the city. After a few stalls, Amaru opens tonight inside the former Lokal space.
Amaru, 1904 W. North Avenue, (773) 687-9790, open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday to Thursday (bar until midnight); 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday (bar until 2 a.m.); 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday (bar until 2 a.m.); 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday (bar until 10 p.m.).