October 27, 2010

XOCO @ Chicago

Can I get enough of celebrity chefs? The answer is no. You see, after I left Frontera Grill the day before, I passed by XOCO and decided that I just HAD to come back the next day to have lunch here. Rick Bayless's latest venture is a casual dining spot serving humble Mexican street food. I couldn't help but take a peak inside and was immediately bewitched by the irresistible smell of the tortas (Mexican submarine sandwiches). I'm not one who could pass up a good sandwich, particularly one that's roasted in an wood burning oven!
On a hot, sunny day, another refreshing glass of their Agua del dia is most certainly welcomed. Today the featured drink is some mango and lime mixture, I forget the exact description. Regardless, it was delicious and I can't get enough of it.
Unfortunately, I made the fatal mistake of adding dulce de leche to a very acclaimed cup of hot chocolate. I should've known from my experience at Frontera Grill that their dulce de leche is made with goat milk. Alas, a perfectly made cup of hot chocolate was ruined!
But never mind the drink mishap. I was mightily impressed with all of the sandwiches we ordered. Starting with the Ahogada: Golden pork carnitas, black beans, tomato broth, spicy arbol chile sauce, pickled onions. You have the option to choose the level of heat for the tomato broth and we go with medium. The star of this dish, undoubtedly, is the scrumptious tomato broth. It had just the right level of acidity and spiciness to give a nice punch to the torta. However, this sandwich is meant to be eaten fast, as the bread quickly becomes soggy in the broth. We wish that the broth had been served on the side instead.
My personal favourite, hands down, is the Pepito: Braised Tallgrass shortribs, caramelized onion, artisan Jack cheese, black beans, pickled jalapenos. I have an affinity for shortribs, and this torta is made to absolute perfection. Delectably smoky with a melt-in-your-mouth texture, the shortribs are well complimented by the black beans and gooey cheese. The sweetness from the caramelized onions and the sourness of the pickled jalapenos provide a great balance to this savoury masterpiece. It was so good we ordered a second one!
Jamon: La Quercia Prosciutto Picante, Otter Creek Organic cheddar, black beans, avocado, chipotle mustard. From the torta from the friddle menu, I predictably chose the option that came with avocado. This pressed sandwich more resembles a panini (panino?), but lacks the delectable, smoky flavour that the other two tortas have. Still, I love my grilled sandwiches, so I enjoyed this wholeheartedly as well.
From the sweeter end, we sampled XOCO's signature churros- a type of fried-dough pastry that resembles doughnut. Fresh off the fryer, these tasted amazingly light and oily at the same time (is that even possible?) Since I've never had churros before, it was a great experience and I definitely plan to seek them out back in Toronto. Overall, it was an inspiring and satisfying lunch for all of us, and I am so glad I did not miss out on this gem.
Frontera Grill on Urbanspoon

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