Since moving to Chicago, I have had the opportunity to experience many wonderful restaurants. Places w/ creative chefs, the best ingredients, the most romantic ambiance. And I've written about many of them right here on this blog. In fact, I added a Tab to my blog homepage labeled 'Chicago Restaurant Reviews'. Feel free to peruse at your leisure next time you're looking for a night out on the town!
But of all the places I have been, in Chicago or worldwide, my overall favorite restaurant experience is moto. Chef Homaro Cantu's world is one of molecular gastronomy, the application of both scientific and artistic principles in cuisine. The tasting menu is incredibly creative, with each dish inspired, surprising and very scientifically executed. I agree w/ the website description:
"Equal parts chef and inventor, Cantu challenges culinary convention and diners, stretching the boundaries of the former and taking the latter on a post-modern, interactive and fantastical gastronomical ride."
The first course immediately impresses, with an edible menu. That's right. The tasting menu is printed on edible paper that is attached to a crustini by an edible glue. A theme throughout the night is that flavor and taste are never sacrificed for creativity. Everything tasted as good as it looked. And it looked so cool!
Quite possibly the most fun edible I've ever been presented, is moto's Cuban Cigar. Looks like a cigar, yes? With a label, ashes and everything! Guess what it tastes like? A cuban sandwich. Unreal. Such a strange experience to eat something that looks like a cigar (that first bite was surreal) but tastes like a sandwich. It's so great, it deserves 2 pictures:)
Another example of moto's molecular gastronomy is the root beer float dessert. Actually, I'd say this dish is an example of both molecular gastronomy and food deconstruction. Oh, all these foodie words! What on earth is food deconstruction?? A "deconstructed" dish is one that has all the components of the original item, but presented in a creative, interesting way. So the root beer float dessert- which needs components of root beer and vanilla ice cream- was composed of Goose Island root beer and edible packing peanuts as the "vanilla" with liquid nitrogen fumes contributing the "cold". The use of liquid nitrogen, and the making of edible objects with all the same characteristics and texture of non-edible packing peanuts would be 2 good examples of the "science" behind molecular gastronomy.
Another fun dish was the "Ants on a Log". You know the original- peanut butter on celery w/ raisins on top. This version was celery flavored gelato, raisin flavored chocolate in the shape of ants, and a delicious PB substitute (I don't remember what it was).
Other fun courses included deconstructed french onion soup, and a delicious reuban sandwich that looked like lasagna.
The ambiance in moto really matches the modern feel of the food. Simple, elegant. Amazing service, w/ servers paying close attention to timing and giving excellent, detailed descriptions of each course, elaborating on interesting points of how the item was created, or how the chef came up with the idea. It really was an amazing, out-of-this world eating experience. Some people say moto is over-hyped, but I say if this fun food doesn't deserve hype, I don't know what does!