Full disclosure, I love Top Chef. I know it is highly edited, slightly fake and total tv food porn, but I love it. I’ve been hooked since season one and even generally like Top Chef Masters. Given the chef star power in Chicago we searched and searched restaurants for our limited time here, but one was a complete “we have to” for both Bob and I – Rick Bayless.
I was pretty impressed with this chef I had not really heard of during that season, especially considering the other heavy hitters there. But the moment I knew I had to eat at his restaurant was when he talked about spending 20 years perfecting a mole sauce. The respect for the culture and food of Mexico is evident in everything he says, but that discussion has stayed with me since. So we decided Topolobampo was the one we were going to do while in Chicago. Thankfully we were able to get reservations (late, but I didn’t care) and we had an amazing time.
For this meal Bob and I got to create our own tasting menu since that is how Topolobampo has their menu set up. We decided to do seven courses with wine pairing (next time I’m doing five so I’m not totally stuffed) and it was perfect. I didn’t have a bite of food that I didn’t love – one that was super spicy for me, but still great – but the highlights were a deconstructed tamale that had the most amazing broth. Silky, creamy masa with a savory, deep broth.
The other must have you can guess – the mole. I could not do a Rick Bayless restaurant and not do the mole since this was the dish that got me hooked. Bob and I both had this as one of our courses.
I did trade one of my pieces of beef for Bob’s green beans – they were amazing in the mole sauce. I cannot begin to describe the sauce – it was totally unexpected and unlike any mole I’ve ever had. It did not taste like chocolate but there is chocolate there; there are so many flavors in this dish but they do not compete with each other. It is incredible and worth the trip to Chicago. (Of course all the food here has been incredible, but there really is something special about this sauce.)
Chicago is an amazing food city and we have not scratched the surface. Chicago itself reminds me of Philadelphia (with wider streets) but the draw here is the food more than the history. It doesn’t tempt me the way some cities do, but the food … oh the food. I think I would gain fifteen pounds if we didn’t walk everywhere and it would have been totally worth it.