seafood tamal 3rdarm mexique chicago top chef

Our friends Andrea and Julie moved in around the corner, probably the closest good friends have lived since way back in the era of the next door neighbor. They suggested Etta and I join them for dinner at Mexique to cheers the nearness, and so we did on a Sunday night.

shrimp ceviche mexique chicago 3rdarm

The ladies shared a pitcher of Jamaica sangria and I had a glass of nonalcoholic Jamaica, it was tasty and had stuff going on in the complexity of flavor. After putting in the order for appetizers, we learned that night the top six contestants from this season of Top Chef would be coming that night. They were all in town for a special event at the Union League Club the next night.

beef tartar mexique chicago 3rdarm

The seafood tamal dish where crab mousse stands in for corn masa in a earthy, savory dark chile sauce was so good I realized Chef Carlos getting eliminated from Top Chef for this dish was like Rick Bayless losing by one point to Bobby Flay in the first episode of America’s Iron Chef: some people still don’t get Mexican cuisine.

chicken tinga tostada mexique chicago 3rdarm

That night’s shrimp ceviche with flowers and light purée and the plate got scraped clean. The beef tartar got me with salty capers, spicy chile, and perfectly seasoned umami. Juicy chicken tostadas. We were having that kind of dinner where we kept saying this is the best dish of the night.

mahi mahi pozole chicago mexique 3rdarm

Mahi mahi crusted in salty crunch of chicharron, red from guajillo pozole corn in a velvety green chile sauce, perfectly cooked fish in the middle of a story of flavors was my favorite. The pork crusted fish and saturated colors were unexpected and it tasted like it came from his grandmothers kitchen. The women however unanimously decided the intense mole duo of scallops and pork belly was the best. Dessert of creme brûlée, chocolate crepes and Julius Meinl coffee was a great ending.

I used to work with Chef Carlos at the Union League Club, my first restaurant job. Back in the day, he would carve ice sculptures and I was part of the team of stewards who would move them from the freezer to the banquet halls. Before the Top Chef contestants arrived in a super long white limo, I got to shake hands with Chef Michael Garbin, the executive chef at the Union League Club, while he waited for the chefs at the bar. It is inspiring that more than a decade on Chef Carlos and Chef Garbin are both crushing it.

TL:DR Mexique was awesome and want to go back.

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