Thursday, July 3, 2014

Topolobampo - Chicago, IL

Lime-marinated Alaskan king salmon, sea urchin aji amarillo, creamy coconut,
saffron-pickled knob onions, Bayless Garden microgreens, corn masa "jaula" (cage)

Ceviche Trio
Classic ceviche, Yucatecan shrimp and calamari ceviche, tropical fresh tuna coctel

"Timeless Wonder"
Creamy tamal colado, tepary beans, garlic chive oil, house lardo, allium flowers

Goat Barbacoa
Kilgus Farm Boer Goat two ways (classic slow-cooked barbacoa and modern "pancetta"),
creamy garbanzos, red chile-infused braising juices, City Farm young radishes

Baja Black Cod, Mole de Olla
Pan-seared wild Baja black cod, brothy mole de olla (three chiles, fish stock, herbs),
roasted vegetables, xoconostle (sour prickly pear) gelatina, lime puree

Lamb in Mole de Calabaza
Smoky, slow-cooked lamb "porchetta", pumpkin mole (ancho, tomato, spices, pepitas),
roasted sunchokes, fingerling potatoes

Carne Asada/Foie Gras in Mole Negro
Wood-roasted 28-day aged prime ribeye in classic Oaxacan black mole (chilhuacle chiles
and 28 other ingredients), chipil tamal, black beans, smoky green beans

Chocolate Herb Garden
Chocolate ganache layer cake, bittersweet chocolate-mint mousse, Bayless Garden hoja santa
ice cream, chocolate "twigs", micro greens, flowers

Cajeta Crepes, Chocolate, and Plantain
Warm crepes with ripe plantain and bittersweet chocolate, cajeta (goat's milk caramel),
caramelized plantain ice cream, toasted meringue, Spence Farm whole wheat crumble

If there's a better restaurant in America conceiving and executing high-end Mexican dishes with a strong regional focus like Rick Bayless's Topolobampo (445 N. Clark St.), I'm not aware of its existence.  Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Topo (as the locals refer to it) continues to set the standard for Mexican fine dining, especially now with thematic tasting menus that are refreshed every month; the missus and I narrowly missed Mexico City 1671, instead arriving on a night when the "Art Series" menu was in effect, featuring culinary creations inspired by various pieces of Mexican art adorning Topo's walls (two of which, "Uncaged" and "Timeless Wonder" can be seen above).  With our usual overbooked Chicago itinerary looming, I hesitated when first considering somehow jamming in this dinner reservation, but I'm so glad I did.  The dishes we chose for our 5-course tasting menu were full of surprises, from the best barbacoa (slow-cooked goat) I've ever eaten to the food fantasy fusion of steak, foie gras, and Bayless's 29-ingredient mole negro (this was Mrs. Hackknife's choice - she was kind enough to share, bless her) to the discovery of never-encountered recipes (such as tamal colado), placing this meal squarely atop our best-of list for 2014 (no small feat, mind you).  Tables here are somewhat difficult to come by (the restaurant only seats about 50), but if you get the opportunity to dine at Topo, don't pass on it...

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