While out shopping during the afternoon of New Year's Eve, we decided to have a late lunch and spring for a culinary adventure. With the snow falling steadily and many shoppers hurrying around to get last-minute party supplies, we walked into the quiet, cozy nook that is Bien Trucha in Geneva, IL. This is a restaurant that's hard to spot, even though it's located on bustling State St. in downtown Geneva. To say it is tiny is an understatement. The restaurant maybe sits 12 people at the most. The bathroom is located in the back of the tiny kltchen, in which patrons are invited to wander if they need to use the facilities. The building's miniscule proportion compared to other businesses along this stretch is striking. It sits next to an empty lot that I think is destined for condos or large retail fronts. It is almost a shack of a building that holds Bien Trucha. But it is tidy and warmly decorated on the inside.
We'd tried to eat at Bien Trucha for dinner on several occasions, only to find people hovering outside in the cold waiting to get into the restaurant, which does not take reservations. So to find it open and empty, save one other diner, was something of a New Year's miracle. Our waitress was knowledgeable and explained the menu to us after asking if we'd dined there before. Her manner and thorough menu descriptions were as impeccable as that at any fine dining restaurant we've experienced.
The traditional chips and salsa brought to our table held the first delight and surprise of the meal. The homemade chips were accompanied by a warm salsa that had a creaminess to it -- and possibly the addition of pureed pinto beans. It had a kick of chipotle to it as well, and was unlike any salsa we'd ever tried. We decided to start out with the Guacamole del Dia, which the waitress informed us was the house guacamole with the chef's addition of red grapes. How intriguing! Jeff likened the concept to that of chicken salad, combining the creaminess of the avocados (like the mayo in chicken salad) with the sweet crunch of the grapes.
Jeff ordered the fish tacos (Tacos Pescado) as his entree, and they are literally the best tacos I have ever tasted. Each corn tortilla contained a hearty piece of battered and fried tilapia, topped with a red cabbage slaw with creamy chipotl-morita aioli and tomatoes. My entree was the one of the Cazuelitas, which is best described as a gooey dish of chihuahua cheese bearing vegetables and/or meat. I had the Championenes, containing wild mustrooms, chile dearbol, garlic , onion and crema fresca. It is presented in a square bowl along with a chipotle salsa that can be layered in corn tortillas to create your own quesadillas. The dinnerware and presentation for all the dishes was clean, modern and unexpected for such a small restaurant.
To drink, Jeff ordered the traditional margarita, while I had the fruit water of the day, pineapple. Because pregnancy has made ordering anything beyond water and soda almost impossible, I was excited to have a nutritious, non-alcoholic drink that also delighted my senses. It was a frothy pineapple water that even Jeff, who does not like most tropical fruit, tried and claimed to be refreshing.
As you can tell we were both thrilled with our lunch. We both needed to use the restrooms and were equally impressed by our journey through the small kitchen. Three people worked in a tiny, but very clean space with fresh produce and ingredients stacked against the walls. After being fans of Gordon Ramsey's TV show "Kitchen Nightmares," you never know what the kitchen of any restaurant holds behind closed doors, but I think even the very demanding Gordon would have approved of this setup.
I only hope Bien Trucha finds enough success to move into a space worthy of its culinary accomplishments.