Chi’bal is the infusion of many passions that animate and inspire its drinks and meals. For Alberto Fonseco, it’s the tequila. “This modern restaurant has the only tequila bar between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.,” the general manager said. But that alone is not what makes it a destination. Alberto hand selects the exclusive Añejo Patron tequila sold at the restaurant—and he has the certificate to prove it. He described to me his annual journey to Mexico, the birthplace and sole source of true tequila because of the Weber Blue Agave grown there.
“We choose the barrel and the flavors,” he said, referring to the oak barrel where his tequila had been aging for nearly 22.9 months. This barrel is
eventually shipped to him. For Chef Miguel Lara, it’s the food.
“Everything is made from scratch,” he said as he explained the ethnic influences in his infused Mexican dishes, such as Peru, and his unique blend of spices. The food is also cooked over an open flame grill.
Alberto added that Chi’bal works with many local vendors to ensure a steady and reliable supply of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other menu items and beverages. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free items are also available.
The restaurant opened in July 2016 and has surged in popularity. One attraction is the Tequila Bottle Club. Bottles decorated with silver, gold and titanium trim are sold for between $300 and $7,000 each and must be consumed when the patron visits Chi’bal. The patron’s name with the date the bottle was purchased is engraved on a metal tag that hangs on the neck of the bottle, which is displayed in a beautiful case at the bar. The engraving is done by a local business.
Another attraction is the open lounge area with its leather couch, chairs, fireplace and big-screen television. Alberto rents the space for parties and gatherings, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own. One evening people used the area for salsa dancing, he said. In addition to its singular Patron, the restaurant sells several other premium tequilas and infuses some with its own flavors. One particular popular tequila at the bar is Terremoto. And popular is an understatement.
Chi’bal “is the No. 1 seller [of Terremoto] in the nation; secondis Disney World,” said Alberto.
The restaurant with a staff that has more than 30 years of combined experience is located at 14933 Baltimore Ave. with a social hour—“every hour should be happy,” said Alberto— from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Signature Dish – Pastel de Jaiba y Camaron
Three mini crab cakes prepared Maryland style and three jumbo shrimp are served with rice, red enchilada sauce and green tomatito sauce. The vegan black beans are cooked with basic ingredients, including salt and garlic.
Signature Drink – Mockingbird
Best described as addictive heat, this smooth drink includes habanero pepper-infused tequila, Avion tequila, jalapeno, agave nectar and pineapple juice. The burn is the tickle in the back of the throat and the aftertaste is pure sweetness.
Caption: Photo courtesy of Chef Miguel Lara.
by Therese Umerlik | Editor