After a stretch of particularly gross weather and heavy/conflicting work schedules, Mario and I recently realized that we hadn't been out on a dinner date together in well over two months. While we're not the couple with a high maintenance date schedule (and in fact, after fifteen years together, Mario is adamantly opposed to referring to nights out as "dates"), we do try to make it a point to go out for dinner together at least a few times a month - not only is a good for us to take a break from our hard-working DVR, but also, we really enjoy exploring the food scene together and discovering new favorites. His willingness to try new things was actually one of the qualities that originally made me fall for him all those years ago. So as soon as I heard about Artango Bistro, a romantic little Argentinian restaurant in the heart of Ravenswood, I knew it was the perfect spot for us to break our dry spell!
Owned by the husband and wife team of tango dance pro Maria Alferov and Buenos Aires-born artist Sebastian Casanova, Artango Bistro offers diners a full-on Latin American experience, complete with flavorful and healthy South American cuisine, one-of-a-kind décor in a romantic, sexy space, and tango lessons. The restaurant actually wasn't even a part of Alferov's original plan - although she was an avid foodie, her focus was on tango (she was once a tango instructor by day who also hosted evening milongas in her Ravenswood studio). However, after meeting her husband (through tango, naturally), the two transformed her studio into the gorgeous, art-filled social club and event space that it is today.
The space is filled with Casanova's beautiful oil paintings, floating chandeliers, and dramatic lighting elements (I was obsessed with the fantastic chandeliers & couldn't stop photographing them!)
I usually don't rave about bread baskets and house salads, but trust me, you don't want to skip over either of these! Both are served with a tangy dressing/dipping sauce that is definitely worth sampling.
We started off our meal with the Trio De Ceviches: mahi-mahi with passion fruit vinaigrette, tuna with avocado and sesame seeds, and shrimp with red rocoto sauce.
Mario and I loved all of the ceviches, as they were so fresh and flavorful, but the mahi mahi was a clear standout for both of us. The passion fruit vinaigrette was so tangy and zesty - it was one of the happiest, brightest little citrusy seafood dishes I've ever had! I would make a return trip to Artango for the ceviche alone!
We paired our ceviche platter with a trio of their Empanadas: beef, ham & cheese, and vegetarian. These handmade baked empanadas were perfectly crispy and packed with flavor - it was actually impossible to choose a favorite!
Lubina Celestial: Chilean sea bass with purple & sweet potatoes in a pineapple-ginger sauce. For our entrées, we decided to take our server's suggestion and split two of their most popular dishes. I am so glad we took his suggestions because I fell head over heels for this amazing sea bass! As with the ceviche, the seafood was incredibly fresh and flavorful. We both loved the sweet/spicy sauce on the fish and the perfectly cooked potatoes.
Malbec Filet Mignon with red & yellow peppers, grilled asparagus, and malbec sauce. I have to admit by the time we got to the second entrée, I was ready to tap out (I was so into the seafood dishes that I forgot to leave room for anything else), but I did manage to sneak in a few bites of this buttery filet. Mario was impressed with the flavor of this steak and was more than happy to pull it over to his side of the table.
Near the end of our main course, the tango instructors began their lessons at the other end of the room. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, diners can take advantage of a free beginners tango lesson (advanced lessons are also available on other days/times). For $30, diners get an appetizer, choice of entrée and dessert, as well as the opportunity to participate in the half hour group tango lesson focused on posture, walking, and connection to the music/your partner.
Even if you don't participate in the group lesson, it's such a cool experience to be there while it's happening - the dancing adds special touch to the ambiance (and the instructors are amazing to watch!).
We ended our meal with an unbelievable Dulce de Leche Crepe. Again, this is one of those dishes that is an absolute must-try! The crepe was so perfect that we finished every bite of it, even though we were both holding our stomachs by the end. ;-)
You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Artango Bistro: 4217 N Ravenswood Ave, Chicago, IL. The restaurant is BYOB, so bring along your favorite wine and prepare to immerse yourself in a sexy evening of South American food, dance, and culture!