Monday, May 30, 2011

Cheap Eats Review: Xoco (Chicago, USA)

 Xoco ***

There are not many places I see myself returning for a bite on a daily basis.....Xoco is one of them. "The little sister" (in Aztec) to Rick Bayless' Mexican restaurant empire in Chicago, Xoco offers a modern take on Mexican street food. It sits just next to the mid-range Frontera Grill (review coming) and  fancy Topolobampo (1 Michelin starred).

Yes, Rick Bayless was the winner of Season 1 of Top Chef mean feat when chefs like Wylie Dufresne of NYC's wd~50 and Hubert Keller were some of the many world class chefs competing.

Beware of the long lunch queue...but worth the wait!
Xoco is open from breakfast to dinner but lunch is probably the busiest service period. The menu is large and varied. 

The warm tortas (sandwiches) are amazingly crusty and crispy....straight from the wood fired oven. 
With so many delicious options, I went for the Top Chef torta - a dish Rick Bayless created in the show's challenge.....braised beef tongue and chorizo....2 of my favourite things (among many, of course)!

Salsa verde
The torta was amazing - the braised tongue tender and chorizo adding plenty of flavours. Bits of avocado balances the torta filling in textures and adds natural "creaminess". The torta reminded me of Barcelona's Cafe Viena in La Rambla - perfectly crusty and toasted.

 Just as amazing was the short rib red chile soup (caldos). Braised Tallgrass shortribs in a red chile broth with roasted vegetables - truly unbelievable! Toppings of wild arugula added natural pepperiness and further texture.

Not a single drop wasted!
We were so impressed we returned for breakfast.....The churros was perfectly cooked - crisp on the outside and a touch fluffy on the inside. Care was taken with each churros - all coated with light dusting of sugar and cinammon - not too much and not too little. OK - let's make this clear - this was way better than churros found in the small alley of Barcelona, Spain.

The huevos rancheros - eggs with roasted tomato-serrano sauce, black beans on a bed of tortilla was hearty...but nothing outstanding.

Hats off! Frontera Grill, here I come!
Cheap Eats Rating (Xoco): 19.5/20

By Gastronomic G.

Rating explained:

Scores 18 to 20 = *** (3 stars) = World class and close to perfection
Scores 16 to <18 = ** (2 stars) = An exceptional and special dining experience
Scores 15 to <16 = * (1 star) = Very good to great dining experience
Scores 13 to <15 = Good but not memorable
Scores 10 to <13 = Acceptable
Scores <10 = Are you sure you want to eat here?


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