The Vegetarian Option: Quinoa con Tofu at 4 Suyos
If you took one look at the quinoa con tofu ($15) from 4 Suyos and thought Middle Eastern shish-kebab, the impulse wouldn't be all that misplaced. 4 Suyos is on a short list of Chicago restaurants serving authentic and re-imagined Peruvian cuisine, which happens to have a parallel, homegrown tradition of skewering and grilling food that stretches back to Incan times. Peruvian anticuchos remain a popular street food, typically consisting of meats that have been marinated in vinegar, cumin, garlic, and the native ají pepper, a staple of Peruvian cooking. At 4 Suyos, you can get a plate of old-school anticuchos, with Slagel Family beef heart and a boiled potato—but the restaurant has also adapted the recipe to suit vegetarians. In fact, it's so darn suitable that I crushed this plate in no time.
This dish—one of a handful of veggie-friendly menu items at 4 Suyos—has a lot working in its favor, starting with the bold, peppery spice blend anchoring the tofu and vegetables' marinade. Coupled with a generous hit of vinegar, the rub has an exciting, mouth-watering punchiness. I was a little disappointed that my plate did not include the asparagus promised by the menu, but the red and green peppers and onion had been grilled to smoky perfection. The quinoa, another staple of Peruvian cuisine, is served mixed with diced vegetables and creamy queso fresco. The rich, nutty, savory porridge reminded me of cheese grits, and provided a welcome complement to the bright, acidic marinated tofu and vegetables.
For a vegetarian riff on a preparation traditionally featuring meat, the hearty, filling and intensely seasoned quinoa con tofu impressed me. And it certainly gives shish-kebab a run for its money.