Porto Restaurant in Chicago

You're not supposed to use the word exotic in travel writing anymore—it's considered culturally insensitive. But what if it's clear that the restaurant you're reviewing is going for exoticism? That's certainly one of the big appeals of Porto, a restaurant that looks like none of the ones I know that are actually in that Portuguese city. Instead, the designer here seems to be trying to channel the Iberian spirit in the abstract with dizzying layers of differently patterned wall papers and moroccan tiles, extravagant chandeliers, and an 80-foot-long brushed granite horseshoe dining bar that frames a cooking/performance space for the spot-lit chefs (see above).

The food by chef Marcos Campos is out of the ordinary, whether it's anchovies à la turducken (pictured below; there are two types, one jammed inside the other, and set atop crackers with ribbons of complementary sauces); tinned seafoods from Portugal and Spain; wood-grilled octopus with a trio of sensational sauces; or the jamon ice cream for dessert. The latter is infused with pork and sided by sliced cured meat set atop a pig-shaped pedestal. It will make you want to go home and put prosciutto, bacon, or some other pork product atop your desserts from here on in. A smartly curated selection of wines rounds out the culinary experience.

Anchovies at Porto Restaurant in Chicago

Unfortunately, the prices here are also exotic—one can easily surpass the cost of the tasting menu (it's $192) if they decide to order à la carte instead. Many of the servings are quite small, so you need to order several to fill up, and at $25-plus each, that can get painful quickly.

Still, if you have the money to splash out or a special occasion to celebrate, Porto is worth it. Not only is every dish scrumptious, but there's also a wonderfully festive dinner party atmosphere thanks to the genial staff, a trumpet-heavy soundtrack of Latin jazz, and the superb food.