Tuesday, July 20, 2010

rick bayless's frontera grill

Rick Bayless is an American chef specializing in Mexican cuisine. He has written several great cookbooks and has appeared on Iron Chef, Top Chef, and won Top Chef Masters in 2009. More recently, he gained public attention as the guest chef for the White House state dinner in May. Barack Obama is a fan, and so is my dad.

Rick Bayless owns three restaurants in Chicago: Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, and XOCO. My dad likes to visit celebrity chef restaurants when he has the opportunity. He's been to Emeril's NOLA in New Orleans, Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill in New York City, Mario Batali's Babbo in New York City, and of course, Rick Bayless's restaurants in Chicago. He was very excited to take me to Frontera Grill.

Frontera Grill doesn't take reservations, so there is often a long wait. We chose to eat at the bar instead of waiting 1 1/2 hours for a table (when my dad's hungry, he's hungry). Even though we sat at the bar, the service was superb. Our waiter was attentive and helpful, despite being very obviously busy.

The decor was bright and bold, with lots of Mexican and Southwestern art along the walls. There was a fantastic tiled backsplash and a cool iron dragon sculpture. Great vases full of bright, fresh flowers were all over the tables and bar. It was noisy and dim, but not unbearably so. It's to be expected for such a popular restaurant.

To drink I chose a pineapple and cucumber cooler. It was pleasantly sweet and very refreshing. The margaritas looked great, but I wasn't in the mood for liquor, so I stuck with my cooler and iced water. It was much harder to choose what to eat for lunch. Everything on the menu sounded delicious, but I was in the mood for some fresh fish. The downside to living in a small town in the middle of a landlocked state is the unavailability of really fresh, delicious fish. State College, PA has no fish market. I take advantage of being in big cities and try to eat as much seafood as possible.

I finally decided to order the fresh catch of the day: swordfish. We did have a bit of wait for our food, but nothing too bad. My mouth was positively salivating by the time our waiter put my plate in front of me. The swordfish was grilled to medium-rare and served in a pureed sauce of green vegetables, herbs, and cream. It was accompanied by grilled asparagus and fingerling potatoes.

That first bite was phenomenal. The fish was cooked to perfection and it melted in my mouth. The sauce was vibrant and light, with a gentle peppery bite and essence of cilantro. It paired very well with the fish and potatoes. So often, fish is overcooked, dry, and overly flaky. I can't describe how fresh and buttery the swordfish really was. Since it was cooked to medium-rare, by the time it reached the table, the middle was just opaque. I was pleased and surprised at how light the meal was, not heavy like you would expect something with cream and potatoes to be. I think this dish could convert a seafood hater to a fish lover. It was my favorite meal I had in Chicago.

Unfortunately, the restaurant was dim and I have a simple point-and-shoot camera, so it was difficult for me to capture a good picture of the food. The picture does not do it justice.

If you are in Chicago, I highly recommend a trip to Frontera Grill. You will not be disappointed. If you wish to save a bit of money, I suggest going for lunch. With drinks, appetizers, and an entree, we paid about $30 each. I don't find this unreasonable for a delicious meal at a famous restaurant. Keep in mind that the wait will be lengthy. But enjoy the wonderful food!

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home