We have watched Future Food on the Planet Green Television Channel. It depicts Chefs Omar Cantu and Ben Roche attempting the save the world by finding inventive ways to recycle food. The show is ridiculous.
Aside from questioning whether it’s even reasonable to try to reuse prepared food (over and above reheating your leftovers), the energy cost of processing food is anything but green. Green or not, the show does teach some pretty cool ways to cook using liquid nitrogen, centrifuges, high frequency agitators, and a variety of chemicals used to change the consistency of everyday ingredients.
Moto is the restaurant in Chicago where all of this takes place. While the show is sometimes silly, the restaurant serves highly acclaimed food (or at least highly debated food) and looked like a fun place to go. Plus, we had already eaten at WD-50 where similar cooking techniques are used, so a comparison seemed worthwhile.
The taxi drivers in Chicago are great. This is important to know, because when arrive at Moto’s address the middle of the meat packing district – at night – you might question if you are in the right place.
You are. Tucked in with the warehouses and loading docks is a very unassuming doorway. The fact that there is sign next to the door lends little comfort. The building is dark and it took the valet standing on the street to usher us inside.
Inside it remains dark. The room is dimly lit and starkly decorated in ultra modern fashion. The host greets us warmly and we are seated right away.
The first thing that comes to mind is that there is no bar. There must be one somewhere, but the room doesn’t look anything like on TV. Our conclusion is that there is a separate doorway to another part of the restaurant.
Two tasting menus are offered: a 10 course and a 20 course. We had selected the 10 course when the reservation was made, so we were immediately given the edible list of things we would be dining on.
Yes, the menu is meant to be eaten. This is a good start to a dinner that promises to be weird and inventive. Is the menu tasty, you ask? Well, it’s a cracker, but the spinach purée was a good accompaniment.
The evening is a bit of a blur; although, there were memorable high points.
The Snow Man is presented in a bowl atop a pile of raw tuna. The snow man is made of lime foam and has a face drawn on with black sea salt. The server then pours a Margarita-like liquid over the snow man, melting it like the Frosty the Snowman, and forms a kind of instant ceviche with the tuna. Really tasty and Ruth’s favorite course.
The White Steel was interesting combination of escolar with grapefruit as a different kind of acid to serve with the fish. The Maitake and Pork Belly was really good, but when is pork belly not good?
Things started to get more creative with the Quail and Cracker Jack with combined flavors of peanuts, popcorn, caramel – and quail. A definite winner that included more soy ink printing. The Rabbit Maki was a clever presentation of sushi that is not sushi, also very good.
The Reuben Lasagna was good, but a but obvious. The Mexican Cannoli might have been good, but since we had just eaten at Topolobampo, we deemed the molé sauce to be very much sub-standard.
The desserts were a little disappointing. Given the technical nature of dessert making in general, we though this is where Moto would excel. We found the desserts to be overly simplistic.
The Frozen Yogurt was an interesting presentation with the yogurt frozen in a big squiggle, but not amazing in flavor. The Chamomile and Pineapple was an unfortunate flavor combination that we just didn’t enjoy.
The Banana Split was a fun dish, allowing us to squirt the ice cream with chocolate, cherry, and caramel sauce from individual pipettes. The flavors we exactly as expected, which was a bit of a let down. The Tuber Melanosporum is a cute way of saying truffle, in this case chocolate. We can no longer remember what accompanied it.
We excitedly awaited the packing peanut. The edible packing peanut was featured on the TV show as a food/packing material. We had seen other tables receive them an we saw that they were served atop a beaker containing super chilled liquid that caused people to blow vapor from their mouths. Ours was delivered while we were still eating the truffles and it warmed up before we could drink it. Bummer.
Regarding the service: it wasn’t great. At this price point, we expect perfection and it wasn’t. Courses didn’t come out very consistently. The restaurant wasn’t overly busy, but the waitstaff seemed distracted at times. When the people next to us got their snow man waiter forget to melt it. We had to waive them off from eating the tuna pre-ceviche.
The bathrooms were unexpectedly plain. We have a picture of the flushless urinal, but when not in use, it just looks like a urinal, so no picture posted.