Saturday, June 18, 2011

In the Past Five Hours

Moto Restaurant
945 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, Illinois 60607
(312) 491-0058

There are a few restaurants that I really wanted to try in Chicago. Admiring the art of food, both in presentation and taste, I wanted to try the three Michelin starred restaurants, Alinea and L2O. And amazed with molecular gastronomy, I also wanted to try the molecular gastronomy restaurant, Moto. I decided to start with Moto first since it seemed very fun to cook with science!

Moto's menu consists of a choice of either the 10 courses, which costs $135 and lasts at least 2 hours, or the 20 courses, which costs $195 and lasts at least 4 hours. My friend Kathy and I decided to go with the 20 since we're rarely in Chicago, and we're technically paying for the food and a "show". The hostess took our order when she gave me my confirmation call the day before. She said it was not neccessary to order right during the confirmation call but I gave her my order anyways, considering it would help the chefs with their prepping.

The restaurant was located on the West side of Chicago in the meat packing district. The restaurant was pretty hidden considering the area was very quiet and filled with delivery trucks. But once through the door of Moto, the dim lighting, the plain but modern decor, the fancy opened wine bottles, the well dressed hostess, waiters and waitresses await. The restaurant was very spacious and the dim lighting certainly made me use my senses to feel and taste the food more.

Once seated, the waitress brought out Kathy's and my edible menu that was a bruschetta. It was interesting even though it was just edible ink printed on a thin edible film which was "glued" to a piece of thin crispy slice of bread with string bean salsa on the side. Even though it was simple, it was eye-opening and exciting because no other restaurants does this. It immediately got me thinking about the food and the way we can serve it.

Throughout the night, we were served different small dishes that had at least one molecular gastronomy element, be it cooking with liquid nitrogen, working with foam or using chemical such as sodium alginate. Every plate gets the diner thinking if not focusing on the great taste!

Here are some of the memorable courses:
Fried Chicken Fettucine

The Fried Chicken Fettucine is a fresh pasta covered with dehydrated fried chicken powder and topped with a fried chicken skin and creamy cheese sauce. As much as I dislike fried food, the fried chicken skin tasted delicious when crumbled onto the pasta. The chicken powder was to die for. It was very, very rich in chicken favor, way better than the dried chicken esscence with MSG.

Baseball Snack

Baseball Snack consists of a thick slice of quail on top of a sweet and tangy raspberry reduction. It also consists of some honey roasted peanuts over a bed of popcorn powder, and happily topped with the surprise: an edible cracker jack wrapper. The quail was very juicy and tender. The sauce was too tangy for my taste though. I love peanuts, so I definitely ate those really fast. Asked for the popcorn powder, it was buttery and cheesey but lacked corn flavor. The berry flavored cracker jack wrapper was definitely fun and cute to look at, but the berry taste was very mild.

Cigar with Ashtray     [photo courtesy of Kathy T.]

This is by far one of my favorite entrees. This cigar is actually a deep fried shredded pork sandwich that was wrapped with chard and dipped with roasted red pepper sauce. The ash was made with finely ground black and white sesame seeds. The favor was so strong and the chili sauce just tied everything together. It reminded me of a carnita burrito but less heavy. I can eat a bunch of these cigars any day!

After we sat down, the waitress brought out our menu with a lit candle. This candle was pretty cool because later in the courses, the food server poured the "wax" over our plate of chicken. This candle was actually made out of beef fat and butter. Awesome! Perfect way to make the most out of what we have. I wish I asked the server if I can buy a few from them.

Venison and Alium

Later into the course, there was Venison and Alium, which consists of slices of perfectly sous-vide venison and alium in many ways. Alium is the genus for flowering plants like onions. So beneath the vension, the chef placed some pickled whole small onions, and then on top of the venison, he placed fried onion strings. There was also onion chips that was like the Funion chip. The onions tasted really good with the vension. The fried onion strings also added texture to the tender chewy vension. The sauces that were made with onion was really delicious also. I couldn't stop spreading them onto the vension before I eat it.

Fourteen appetizers and entrees later, the meal progressed into the dessert courses! I know, not just just one dessert course but six!!

The Breakfast

The first dessert that was served was The Breakfast. It consisted of yogurt which was presented like Dip in Dots ice cream, mini cinnamon crackers and a yolk of mango and passionfruit juice. The mango and passion fruit juice was thick and delicious! It was made with sodium alginate and calcium chloride via reverse spherification. This tiny dessert was sweet and juicy from the yolk and crunchy and spicy from the toast, and then it was milky and cold from the yogurt ice cream. It was small but real good!

Banana Split

Another one of my favorite was the Banana Split. It looked nothing like an average banana split but it consisted of every ingredients that are in one. Whipped cream was placed at the bottom of the bowl and topped with frozen banana ice cream mixture. Lastly three pipettes filled with milk chocolate sauce, maraschino cherry syrup and caramel! This dessert give the diner the option of adding however much sauces he or she wants. It was a fun dessert.

Another one of my favorite one of the night was the ACME Bomb! It was a s'more in one bite, an explosion in the mouth. The bomb was made with a graham cracker and milk mixture covered with dark chocolate. The server set the bomb on fire by torching it. He instructed us that we should eat it all in one bite after the fire goes out. It was like a truffle with a liquid center. It was so good, I wish the server would brought me some more.

Soda du jour

The last of our dessert was Soda du jour. It was a cream soda liked drink topped with an edible coconut flavor packaging peanut. The packaging peanut was a statement and a bright idea that the genius chefs at Moto have. Instead of using styroform packaging peanuts that take years to degrade, why not make some that are able to withstand the impact of mailing, and are able to be degraded by eating. The coconut flavor was subtle, but it didn't taste bad either. I wouldn't mind eating more of those  in my packages. It would definitely make getting packages more exciting!

In the middle of the night, chef Cantu came out to check on the diners and conversed with them. It was nice for him to take some time out of his busy kitchen to come say hi. To end the night, I asked the server if I could have a tour of the kitchen. They were happy to show Kathy and I around and did not rush us through the busy kitchen at all. The exercutive chef Homaro Cantu and exercutive pastry chef Ben Roche were both there. I felt like I was seeing celebrities! It was interesting seeing all these instruments that I would normally see in the lab I worked at--flasks, centrifuge, sonicator, etc.

Kathy and I left Moto quite tired but with discussion of the innovative and tasty dishes we had in the past five hours. It was definitely an experience that was worth trying.

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