Saturday, November 28, 2015

Restaurant Review: Mexique Chicago

Mexique is re-writing history. What if after the Spanish took over Mexico, it became a French colony for a couple of centuries.

Chef Carlos was classically trained in French Kitchens, but went back to his roots in Mexican cuisine. But he brought along all of the techniques and sauces from his days in French Kitchens.

Now with Mexique having earned a Michelin Star, he's a chef coming into his own.

I opted for the 6 course Prix Fixe meal for $80.

We started with a Celeriac and passion fruit soup (not pictured). I don't like Celeriac soup. It's got all of the off flavors of celery without any of the pleasing crunch or crisp freshness.

I love being proved wrong. The celeriac and passion fruit played well with one another, the citrus sour tang of passion fruit rounded out the herbal notes of the celeriac. It also packed a pleasing punch of spiciness which would be repeated through the meal. You know a meal is going to be amazing when you start off with ingredients you dislike and see them transformed into a phenomenal dish.

The Ahi Tuna Ceviche was mind blowing. They started with a citrus juice that was flavored with herbs and something that tasted a bit like melon or cucumber. It was fabulously fresh and vibrant. The tuna, radishes, and peppers were added at the last minute, so that they didn't actually cook in the acidic sauce. Tuna is best eaten raw. Again a subtle but satisfying heat was present throughout the dish.

The next course was Opah fish. It was sauced with a corn sauce and a green sauce. Both were fabulously rich and delicious, the complimented the white fish amazingly well. Eaten together it was delicate, balanced and insanely addictive.

Both me and my dining companion noticed that the fish itself wasn't salted before it was cooked. Although the sauces do a fabulous job of flavoring and adding the required salinity it would have been nice if the fish itself was salted. If you took a large bite of fish it wasn't altogether the most flavorful experience.

Other then that, the fish was incredibly fresh, the sauces were flavors I've not experienced before and the dish overall worked well in small bites.

Pork belly with bacon crumble. This dish was incredible. The pork itself was incredibly flavorful and delicious, the bacon crumble had an incredible texture from breadcrumbs or nuts that were mixed in. The brussels sprouts were two halves of perfection. There was one of the most potent and flavorful mole sauces painted onto the pork belly itself, sweet, bitter, umami all mixed together. The sauce underneath was a squash based sauce which rounded out the whole plate.

The pork belly itself was amazingly lean, sourced from Europe.

This was the duck breast with tomale and sauteed greens. It's dressed with a tamarind sauce and a habenero sauce. This dish was absolutely incredible. The duck was perfectly seasoned, cooked, and plated. The tomale mash was rich and creamy with a deep corn flavor. The two sauces married perfectly, the habenero was surprisingly not spicy at all, or else my mouth had gotten so used to a light sweet burn that I didn't notice any spice.

There was a lot of tamarind sauce though. Tamarind is a perfect accompaniment to duck, it sweet, sour, and salty. It actually mixed perfectly with the Habenero sauce, however the balance between the two lay too deeply towards the tamarind, when I was finished I left a lot of tamarind behind and wished for some more habenero sauce.

Goat cheese and cotillo mixed into a custard, brulee'd with caramel corn and homemade Stroopwafel on top? WHAT?? This was hands down the best Creme Brulee I have ever had. Decadent doesn't begin to describe it! Stroopwafel are a delicacy from the Netherlands. They are paper thin wafers glued together with a caramelized syrup. Basically this is a crazy rich custard topped with all things caramelized. Welcome to Chicago.

Chef Carlos asked me if I thought the dessert was too sweet. I don't think so, it was a study in caramel, how could you make that without it being sweet? The sweetness offset the tang of the goat cheese, but the richness of the cheese just made the caramel more decadent. I hope this one stays on the menu.

Overall the experience at Mexique was one I desperately want to repeat. I know I am picky and had a few comments about the food, but I'm the same way about myself when I cook. There is always something that could have been done better, something that could yet be perfected. If you don't stop improving, why keep cooking? And as long as Chef Carlos is cooking, I'm eating.


Mexique  **** Four Asterisks              $$$ three dollar signs

1529 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, Illinois
(312) 850-0288Reservations suggested

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