Monday, June 14, 2010

Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill, Chicago

Serendipity would have it that the Amalfi hotel where I stayed at in Chicago was two blocks away from Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill and XOCO.

I decided to walk to Frontera Grill as soon as I checked into the hotel. The restaurant was packed, including the bar, but a bar seat for one is apparently pretty easy to come by. One advantage to dining solo (the disadvantage would be having a guy hitting on you while he's hiccuping, but that's another story ...).
I'm not sure what the theme was supposed to be, but the decor was rather ... unique, with some awesome-but-a-bit-creepy sculptures hanging by the ceiling, like this one:

The cocktail list at Frontera was pretty interesting. I started with Cerveza y Tamarindo ($10), since I don't come across 1) beer cocktails and 2)tamarind cocktails that often in the states.
This was made with fresh tamarind, Cazadores blanco tequila, and Ayinger "Ur-Weisse" heffe weizen. The tamarind lends the drink both body and tartness. Quite an interesting drink.

I wasn't used to eating alone at a new place and had a hard time deciding what I wanted to order. I narrowed it down to a few things and with the help of the bartender finally ordered the weekly special of the day:
Barbacoa de Borrego (red chile-marinated Crawford lamb slow-roasted in banana leaves, $23) - available on Thursdays.
Served with some warm corn tortillas, of course.
It was indeed a very good barbacoa, with the right flavor components. Despite having been marinated in red chile, it wasn't particularly spicy. I I found the tortillas a bit thicker than I would've preferred it, but the barbacoa itself was tender and very flavorful. t's just that the last time I had barbacoa I spent $8 instead of $23.

The people sitting next to me were gushing about the Topolo Margarita ($9), so oh, well, why not ...
Made with Sauza Commemorativo tequila, Gran Torres orange liqueur and housemade limonada, shaken at the table. A very good margarita, indeed.

"Sopa de frutas" (velvety tropical mamey-orange ice in guava, orange, and passionfruit afloat in passion fruit "broth", $7.50) sounded pretty light and I didn't want to leave and just review one dish, so I ordered it.
It didn't end up being as light as I expected, as passionfruit broth was actually a pretty thick puree.

It's undeniable that I had quite a good meal at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill. It had a fun vibe and a solid cocktail program, which may justify spending an extra $20 on Mexican food than I normally spend. Maybe. At least on my very first trip to Chicago, I didn't mind doing so.

Frontera Grill
449 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 661-0381
http://www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/grill.html
Frontera Grill on Urbanspoon

5 comments:

mattatouille

Looks good, I didn't get a chance to eat at Frontera Grill since I was saving my money for Alinea, but Xoco had some good food. The Topolo Margarita is probably very similar to the one they have at Red O, though the rest of their cocktail program isn't good...yet.

weezermonkey

On my list for my next Chicago visit!

glutster

Banana leaf wrapped chile-lamb? thicker tortillas?

mmm...this is the signature--Southern Mex. slanted--Bayless that I thought was going to be brought to L.A. but oh well.

did you like the mamey ice cream? I should show you lucuma ice cream, its a peruvian "caramel" fruit, he he.

and thick passionfruit soup!?! A Chicago trip for me is not too out of the question actually :)

burumun

Glutster: Ohh didn't realize it was actually special compared to Red O. Sweet :D I need you to teach me more. The chile-lamb was indeed good! I liked the mamey ice cream, I've tried lucuma ice cream when I was in Peru but didn't dig it too much.

I had this lucuma-chocolate cake at La Mar - awesome.

Kung Food Panda

Looking forward to my visit there!

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