Sunday, April 17, 2011
I have friends that think that a chef who is not ethnic cannot make truly ethnic cuisine i.e. a Chef who is not Chinese cannot make truly Chinese food or someone who is not Mexican cannot make Mexican food. I believe that the argument goes that if you were not born part of that group, you cannot truly know their culture which does include their food. Personally I think that this argument is ridiculous but I bring it up because it has been brought up in the case of Rick Bayless. Bayless is an expert on Mexican culture (and their food) and was actually working on his doctorate in Anthropological Linguistics and living in Mexico when he decided to open his first restaurant, Frontera Grill in 1987. His parents were grocers and restaurateurs in Oklahoma (specializing in barbecue) so he was exposed to the life of a restaurateur from an early age and he both wrote a cookbook and worked as a sous chef for a restaurant in Cleveland so he was specifically familiar with Mexican cuisine. Frontera Grill specializes in modern regional Mexican cuisine. In 1989, he, and his wife Deann, opened Topolobampo, a Mexican fine dining restaurant. After numerous cookbooks and awards, and showing the world that their was more to Mexican food than tacos and burritos, they decided to explore street food and opened Xoco in 2009. While most people would think of tacos and burritos when street food is mentioned, that was too obvious and everyone else does that so they went with tortas and caldos as well as the churros and hot chocolate. The place is small and the lines are long but the wait is well worth it. There are two lines, one for takeout and one for seating. While you do order from a counter, if you are going to eat there, you don't order until a seat is available, most of which are counter seats. The line runs along the front of the restaurant in front of the kitchen so you can see the food being made which is kind of cool. On each of the inner walls of the deeply recessed windows, there are four, there is a chalkboard listing and thanking the farms and farmers that supply the restaurant.
This is one of them. I went to lunch on a Saturday afternoon (April 2nd) and stood in line for about 40 minutes. While there was a chalkboard menu by the cashier, they also gave menus to those standing in line so they could be ready when it came time for them to order. I got the menu and there was so much on it that looked good, that the longer that I looked at the menu, the harder it got. I ended up giving the menu back and decided to make a quick decision when I got to the cashier. I ended up ordering a pork belly fideo caldo with woodland mushrooms, zucchini, avocado, and salsa negra.
It was pretty spicy and the serving size was surprisingly big but it was really good. I could have been satisfied with this but I did have to get a churro and some of the hot chocolate.
The menu had 5 different chocolates. There was a type called Mexico City (Champurrado) which was described as thick and rich but that was an understatement. The chocolate was just ridiculous. When it was hot it was very thick but as it cooled, it became even thicker and was almost the consistency of pudding. The churro was crispy and chey and the chocolate went with it well. Bayless has done it again and this is a place that I will be coming to again.