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Restaurants & Bars 8

Ixapuzalco, Marche, and Frontera Grill-recent experiences

Claire | Sep 5, 200201:17 AM

I just returned from my first trip into Chicago, and ate at Ixcapuzalco, Marche, and Frontera Grill. I chose Ixcapuzalco after reading about it on this board, and didn't feel like waiting for a table at Frontera (Topolobampo would have been a choice, but no reservations available the entire 4 days). Of the 3 restaurants, Ixcapuzalco had the best food with very nice service. Appetizers were the Azteca sopa (nice flavors, not particularly outstanding) and the marlin cerviche (again, nice flavors but not great). This was the first mexican restaurant that I have seen that offers a different mole each night, and the waiter said that was the dish to have if we hadn't been there before. My friend had the fish, either tilapia or mahi mahi with rice, and I had the duck with mashed potatoes, both with the green mole sauce of the evening. The sauce was very nicely balanced with comforting flavors. The duck breast slices were tender, and the richness of the duck and the mashed potatoes complimented the rich flavor of the green mole. The fish and rice combination was less successful. The margaritas were made with real lime juice and a special tecquila that the waiter recommended (I think he said they had 70(?) types of tecquila). The flan for dessert looked unimpressive but had a wonderful deep creamy caramel flavor. Overall a very pleasant experience, worth repeating, that was NOT expensive (except for the unexpected 30 minute cab ride to/from the hotel). The next night I was on my own, and I walked to Marche (highly recommended by the hotel concierge), a "french" bistro. A very fun-funky looking place, kind of like the type of decor in a NYC village or Chelsea restaurant. Waiter and maitre'd was very nice and kept checking to make sure that I was fine. Had the country pate ( duck breast, pork, walnuts, and(?)pistachios(?) served with cornichon, 4 daubes of mustard, 2 strips of duck pastrami wrapped around a salad frisee. Pleasantly filling, though I would have preferred more mustard on the plate than the 4 pretty dots...Main dish here was again DUCK (it was the special of the day), a wonderfully smokey duck breast served with 2 cabbage rolls stuffed with duck confit and a fig sauce. Unfortunately, the fig sauce overwhelmed the flavor of the duck breast so the 2 had to be eaten separately, and the duck confit cabbage rolls were bland. Also had a taste of the "frites", which were fun to look at, but a touch greasy. My dessert was new to the menu and consisted of peach tarte tartin, fresh peach creme caramel, and peach ice cream cookie sandwich. Great descriptions, nice to look at, but a dud in the flavor department. Several other tables around me also had the same dessert with mixed reviews. The creme brulee is supposedly good, but the appetizer that the restaurant is "known for" of shrimp with a vanilla sauce, was supposedly not very good at all. A nice place for a single woman eating alone, but not tops in the food department. Decided to try Frontera Grill the last day, and waited 2 hours for a table, which had been sitting open and set for 40 minutes before they seated us. Shared appetizers of lamb empanadas and the assorted filled masa cups. Good, but reminded me of good "tex-mex". My main dish (a special)was the Duck breast with pumpkin seed mole. The duck was TOUGH, but the sauce was nice. The other dishes were the slow cooked pork loin in a chile sauce with a masa shell, and tilapia in a red mole sauce. The fish was cooked well, but the overwhelming flavor of the red mole was of SALT. The pork was ok but totally uninteresting. The only flan on the menu was chocolate, which was dull, overcooked and rather flavorless. We were all disappointed with the food (the service wasn't very good as well) at Frontera Grill, and I do not recommend it at all. Perhaps Topolobampo is better, but will have to wait for another time to try it. Ixapuzalco, except for the neighborhood, is worth a return visit.

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