December 26, 2011
Out to lunch: Topolobampo, 445 N. Clark St.Who eats: Businesspeople, out-of-towners and, this time of year, lots of end-of-year revelers.
Why eat: The most decorated Mexican restaurant in America; Rick Bayless' Topolobampo and Frontera Grill (the attached casual dining room) have won virtually every major culinary award worth having. And Topolobampo's food is a world apart from the cliched taco and burrito fare you find elsewhere.
Ambience: White tablecloths, tile floors and color-saturated walls adorned with serious Mexican art. The mood is warm and relaxing.
Dress code: Every day is casual Friday here.
Noise factor: A tiny dining room and hard-surface tile floors ensure a moderate buzz at all times, and the rattle of cocktail shakers (drinks are shaken tableside) is ever-present. But it's not difficult to converse.
Service: Professional and informative. Our waitress passed along useful and occasionally crucial bits of information on each dish in a matter-of-fact, unintimidating manner. By meal's end, we would have blindly agreed to any suggestion she might have offered.
Overheard: A gentleman delivering a 12-minute (no kidding) monologue on some business deal in which he was involved. I tuned out when I heard the words "Sam Zell."
Menu: Contemporary regional Mexican, presented in magazine-cover-photo form. One section of the menu is given over to sustainable seafood choices.
Reliable options: Trio, Trio, Trio ($18.50) is an assortment of ceviches (guess how many?): Yucatan-style shrimp and calamari brightened with orange, jicama and a mild jalapeno bite; sushi-grade tuna with tomatillo guacamole and mango-grapefruit salsa; and Hawaiian albacore with tomatoes, olives and cilantro. Almost a meal in itself. There's also a salad of apple, tomatillos, jicama and pumpkin seeds, scattered around irregular pieces of foie-gras torchon ($17.50), and a hefty slab of duck breast ($19) alongside a "drunken chile" salsa. Desserts (all $11) are sensational, from a steamed bittersweet-chocolate cake over red peanut mole sauce to a tropical-cream-filled meringue ball alongside passion fruit sorbet.
Cellphone reception/Wi-Fi: Full cellphone reception, but please take your calls elsewhere. This is not the place to fire up a laptop.
Reservations: Can be made at 312-661-1434 or opentable.com.
Contacts: 312-661-1434, or rickbayless.com.
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