I ride my bike to the windy city's hidden gems, lost goldmines, new kids on the block, and old standbys then tell you what to think and what to order. Check, czech, Česká it out...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oh You Fancy, Huh? Part 2, Mexique-can

Let me get historical on your ig'nant ass for a second. The Mexicans and the French are age old foes. In fact they tend to hate each other. On the one hand, the French have looked across the Atlantic with disdain at their romance-language brethren ever since Ignacio Zaragoza kicked their snail-eating asses in the Battle of Puebla. Mexicans, on the other hand, have hated the French ever since Napoleon III joined forces with the Brits and Spaniards and tried to get physical with them in the Franco-Mexican War. Historical enemies they may be, gastronomic friends they may soon become.

Enter peacemaker Carlos Gaytan. His West Town eatery Mexique is a heartfelt attempt to bridge the gap in this ongoing food war. Before we go any further I have to put my cards on the table: I love, LOVE Mexican food. It's my comfort food. It's my rock. I grew up eating it and I will likely die from eating too much of it. I respect French cuisine. It's the grandfather and standard-bearer of fancy food, fancy sauce, and fancy wine and every good chef pays homage to them in some way. So, needless to say, I was very excited to try this one-of-a-kind culture combo.

Because it's part French, Mexique doesn't do margaritas (or tequilas, or beers, or anything). They do wine. And what fine wine it is. I ordered a bottle of Jigsaw Pinot Noir from Oregon. Like any respectable Oregon noir it was light bodied and earthy, with the usual suspect esters of cherry and blue berries. A WIDE variety of foods were ordered and this versatile beast played nicely with all of them.

The review features the debut of my Foodlosophy Grading Scale of Excellence, look for it at the end of each segment.


1. Betabel: a big time port poached beet topped with a battered and fried goat cheese puck made this starter as perdy as it was tasty. The tangy cheese/beet combo is a common theme in the restaurant world right now but the Mexique peeps nail it here with its crispy/velvety texture and sexy presentation. This starter gets a grade of FAF*.

2. Trio of Sopes: a magnificent trifecta of diverse flavor profiles is a quick summary of this well plated dish. I was instructed to start with the escargot and chimichurri (which is quickly becoming my favorite Spanish word) which was rich, buttery and tangy. Second, I hopped over to the shrimp provençal and avacado mousse and I wanted it to be Hunny I Blew Up the Kidized because it was soooo good. And, just in case you were wondering, avacado mousse is just a smoother version of guacamole (not a bad thing). I finished with the young coconut and Xico mole sope. This dish tasted a lot like your "typical" mole in that it was sweet and smoky with chocolatey undertones (just like my ex girlfriend (can't stop, won't stop)) and very little like the young coconut it enveloped (though I'm not sure I'd be able to distinguish young from old coconuts). With the impressive performance of this dish I give it a VTAT**.

Main Courses:

1. Cordero: this herb crusted rack of lamb was served with a lamb shoulder barbacoa sope that seemed to have no connection to the overall theme of the plate but it was so delicious that I have no complaints. The rack de lamb was a bit on the rare side but that's the way I like my meat so, again, no complaints. The sauce had the appearance of barbecue sauce and the spice of a rookie New York drag queen. The flavors were bold, complex and abundant on this plate, though I'm not sure they all played well together. This dish gets a grade of DBC***.

2. Pan Seared Skate Wing: This chondrichthye is notoriously temperamental to cook but Carlos and his crew handled this delicate beauty with a gentle and attentive hand. It was served with sauteed grapes, chopped yukon golds, serrano chiles, microgreens and tied together with a subtle citrus butter sauce. It was buttery yet light, fun yet serious, rustic yet sophisticated (I just ran out of contradicting terms). I give this one a grade of NTS****.


Enchiladas: Enciladas?! For dessert?!! Sounds wild but Boy Howdy did these crisp fried crepes filled with chocolate ganache, served with toasted walnuts, ancho chile chocolate fondue, and vanilla bean ice cream hit the spot after a very filling first two courses. I give this hot number a GBIAASFD (STTIC)*****.

Brass Tacks:
This sleek little spot keeps it simple, puts out a hell of a plate and infuses their dishes with pizazz, heart and scrumtrelescence. As far as uniting the otherwise disparate flavors of the Continent and Old Mexico, I'd say the good people at Mexique are doing a commendable job but their work is far from over.

*FAF= Fun And Fresh
**VTAT= Varied, Tasty And Tantalizing
***DBC= Delicious But Confusing
****NTS= Not Too Shabby* (*I just stole that from a movie trailer)
*****GBIAASFD (STTIC)= Good But I'm Also A Sucker For Desserts (So Take That Into Consideration).
Mexique on Urbanspoon

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