I’m a huge fan of the Top Chef series and was even more excited about coming to Chicago to try to get a taste of Rick Bayless’ cooking after learning about him from the Top Chef Masters competition. He has quite a collection of restaurants in Chicago but I heard about one of his restaurants that you didn’t need to book one month in advance for, the Frontera Grill.
I organised to meet with a few friends there and we put our name down shortly at 6pm when they opened only to already be told that we’d have to wait at least two hours before we’d be seated. Fortunately I wasn’t so hungry from a very big brunch earlier in the day. We headed out to Sable for some drinks as the bar at Frontera was far too busy for our liking and returned when we were called about two and half hours later.
This is us dining after finally getting a table!
We ordered the sample platter of appetisers to share, a number of obligatory margaritas and of course a tamale to try. In most other places, mexican food tends to be a bit bland when served. What surprised me when we tucked into the platter was how everything that so much vibrancy, flavour and life. The dishes didn’t really blur together and each had very distinct flavours that you can try. There was even some ceviche on the platter (more peruvian than mexican) but I didn’t really complain as we ate it all. The guacamole tasted rich and went perfectly with the home-made corn chips.
I also wanted to try the tamales as I’d had one at a mexican take out place and was disappointed by the dry, cornmeal steamed around a pitiful amount of meat. Our waiter actually brought us the wrong tamale to begin with (a plain one) that actually had a lot of fresh flavours and was very promising. I’m glad that when the real chicken tamale arrived, I wasn’t disappointed by the bursts of flavours contained in the golden yellow husks.
For the main I had to order the pork mole, the more traditional of the ones listed on their menu. In total I think they had three or four different varieties including a green mole for fish, and a duck or chicken mole as well. I’m glad I went with this traditional dish, hoping to feel the rich, dark and complex flavours that mole is supposed to have and that Bayless delivered impeccably.
We split for dessert, the banana bread mainly because I really wanted to try it and figured I wouldn’t be back at the Frontera Grill for some time to come. It came with toasted walnuts, caramelised banana and some home made ice cream to provide relief from the richness of the entire dish.
I had high expectations for the entire experience and other than the having to wait for a table, the restaurant definitely delivered on all the points it was supposed to be. I can’t think of any of the dishes being flavourless and all of my friends also commenting on how great everything was.
Name: Frontera Grill
Found at: 445 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60610, United States