Thursday, May 19, 2011

Restaurant Recap: Frontera Grill

For those of you who may not know about Frontera Grill, here's a quick synopsis:

Rick Bayless is the chef at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, creator of Frontera gourmet foods, cookbook author and host of Mexico - One Plate at a Time. We first learned of him during Top Chef Masters. He won the first season of the show. (Just a note, we're kind of addicted to Top Chef, so there may be some commentary about it in the future).

Moving on...

We went to Chicago to celebrate a friends birthday, and since we're all foodies, we decided the best birthday gift was an amazing meal. Frontera Grill didn't disappoint. We ate, and ate, and ate.

The meal started with Ceviche Fronterizo, lime-marinated Hawaiian albacore with tomatoes, olives, cilantro,and green chile; served on crispy tostaditas. We had tried ceviche before on a trip to Las Vegas, and neither of us liked it. Well, apparently we were wrong about ceviche, because Frontera's was to die for. We forgot to take a picture of it. Bear with us as we get used to the blogging world!

Next, we decided to get one of the small plates, Taquitos de Pollo Ahumado, which are crispy taquitos filled with smoked chicken, black beans and poblanos. Homemade sour cream, salsa verde, anejo cheese, guacamole. They were amazing, and again, we forgot the picture... We remembered by the entree course, I promise. The taquitos were just as described on the menu, crispy outer shell, stuffed with all the goodies. Our favorite part of the plate was the guacamole. There was so much flavor and the freshness of the ingredients were amazing.

Now for the entrees: We couldn't believe that the meal could get better, but it did. Between the four of us, we had the following, which of course, we all tried:

Pato en Mole Coloradito: adobo-marinated Gunthorp duck breast in Oaxacan mole coloradito (ancho chiles, sesame seeds, spices and Oaxacan chocolate). Mexican chocolate tamal, winter fruit salsa (apricots, cherries, jicama), watercress salad

Holy Mole, this was great! After hearing about this Oaxacan mole on Top Chef, one of us had to try it. The duck was cooked perfectly and the chocolate tamal was a perfect compliment - not too sweet, but a perfect compliment to the dish.

Chilpachole de Mariscos: classic Veracruz red-chile braise of Gulf shrimp and Viking Village scallops with herby epazote, chochoyotes and roasted chayote. Watercress, lime.

The overall dish was great, but the sauce... the sauce was transcendant. It started off a nice, tomato flavor, then evolved into a spicy explosion of flavor. Then, once your mouth cooled off from the spice, the flavors of the shrimp and scallops came through - there's no way to do it justice without actually tasting it.

Enchiladas de Mole Poblano: homemade tortillas rolled around Gunthorp free-range chicken, doused with Mexicos most famous mole; black beans.

These were amazing. A different mole than was on the duck, and it totally worked with the chicken enchiladas. The star, in our opinion, was the black beans. Upon first glance, they seem like normal beans, but upon tasting, there was something special about them. Who knew black beans could have so much flavor?

Puerco en Salsa de Frijol Negro: red chile-marinated Gunthorp pork loin in velvety black bean sauce flavored with smoky salsa negra. Braised kale, ham hocks, grilled onions, red-chile rice.

Another tasty dish. I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but the rice came formed like a pyramid. We're big on plating, and this was a nice touch. The pork was again cooked perfectly and was wonderfully juicy and flavorful. The black bean sauce was very yummy, and the kale, well, lets just say we'll be experimenting with our cooked greens now. We have to figure out how to re-create that kale!

Overall, we'd give it four thumbs up. If you're on a budget, this isn't your place. It's not somewhere we could go often. Entrees are anywhere between $20 - $30. It was, however, the perfect place to celebrate one of our best friend's birthday.

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