Sunday, January 3, 2016

dos Urban Cantina

Armitage Avenue, the road that I live off of, seems to be the newest exploding restaurant scene.  Between Western Ave. and Kedzie Ave., (4 blocks) there have opened about 10 restaurants in the last four years, with four having opened in the last year (and with 2 more in the planning stages).  I went to a new restaurant in that strip recently, dos Urban Cantina, as a pre-theater dinner stop.  Opened by a couple of Topolobampo alum, the menu features a good selection of craft beers, cocktails, and wine, with a modern Mexican menu based on regional cuisine and local ingredients.  It is located in the former Katakana and Koko Sushi restaurant and like that restaurant, the outer walls were uncovered brick and the ceiling is unfinished.  The restaurant is divided into two rooms, the lounge, where the entrance is and the dining room.  The kitchen occupies a space behind the bar between the two rooms.  The lights are a variety of hanging lights with some additional track lighting and unlike many restaurants, there is enough light so that you can actually read the menu.  When I was looking at the menu, I was going to start with a beer, but I was told that their Aviation cocktail (Gin, Creme de Violette, Lemon Juice, and a Maraschino Cherry) was especially good.  As the Aviation is one of my favorite cocktails, I decided to go that way.  When it arrived, I was surprised at how violet it actually was.  Part of it may have been the light, but I seem to remember others being lighter colored and on the rocks.  This is not to say that I disliked what I received, in fact, I thought it was very good.  With an herbal flavor and a sweet and slightly floral finish.
The food menu is divided into four sections: Vegetable, Masa, Seafood, and Meat, with the appetizers and large plates in the same sections and the large plates indicated in bold.  There were things in every section that looked good, but I thought if I tried to order from every section, I would be stuffed and uncomfortable when I left.  I decided on ordering from the Vegetable, Seafood, and Meat sections with my waitress coursing them into two courses, bringing the Seafood course first and the meat and vegetable being served together.  For my seafood course, I ordered Octopus in Squid Ink Sauce served with White Rice.  The dish was striking in its contrast, with the black of the octopus and squid ink on one side and the rice on the other.  The octopus was tender and cooked perfectly with some spiciness in the very black squid ink sauce.  The rice was tender and flavorful and altogether, it kind of reminded me of an Asian dish, though the burn was different. 
My meat dish was (were?) the Goat Albondigas (Meatballs) with Masa Gnudi and Black Mole topped with Black and White Sesame Seeds.  With the Black Mole and the light Masa Gnudi, this dish was also a dish that had a wide contrast and also would look good in black and white.  The meatballs had a little funk to them, as would be expected of a goat dish, but the gnudi were were lightly flavored which allowed them to go with the 23 ingredient mole and moderate the flavor of the albondigas. 
My vegetable dish was also the best selling dish at the restaurant, Grilled Mushrooms.  They were Maitake and Shimeji Mushrooms with Oaxacan Red Mole and Chestnut Cornbread.  I could tell while it sold well.  The mushrooms were well cooked and flavorful, the chestnut cornbread was nutty and cornbread sweet with a little grit, and the mole was sweet and spicy and very good.  While It was a good dish, my favorite savory dish was the octopus.
While all of the savory dishes (and my cocktail) and I liked them a lot, I had yet to try the dessert.  I have had several desserts in the past that were eye-roll good and the pastry chef at the late lamented one sixtyblue, Hilary Blanchard-Rikower, regularly wowed me.  The dessert here was to that standard/  What did I order?  I had a Piloncillo Sugar Pie (raw cane sugar) with Malted Whipped Cream and Pecan Toffee.  It was an amazing dish with a flaky crust and sweet and salty flavors with a little bitter thrown in.  I wish though, that I had taken a better picture because it was almost as pretty as it was good tasting.  My waitress told me that there were a few other desserts that were at least as good as the sugar pie, I will definitely be back if only for the desserts, but more probably for another very good dinner.   

1 comment: