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Jfood visits Chicago - Topolobampo Review

jfood | Mar 12, 200805:52 AM

When one enters Topolobampo, for some the mecca of Rick Bayless, the expectations are about as high as can be. Nothing less than perfection is expected and anything less is almost complete failure. On Jfood's visit, there were almost sheer and complete perfection in the food.

Jfood arrived and after a brief wait was escorted to his table. The host explained the menu (three different tasting menus plus a la carte) and Jfood opened the menu with child-like anticipation. A bowl of guacamole was immediately brought to the table with cucumber and jicama slices. What a great accompaniment to reading the menu.

The tasting menus looked unbelievable but it was not in the cards for this evening, so Jfood looked to the a la carte. Planning was definitely going to be a key ingredient. Does one look to the apps or the entrees first. A brief sip of water, some thought and jfood decided before he even looked, that his appetizer would be a cerviche of some form, so he moved straight to the entrees.

There are only eight entrees to choose from, but boy is it a difficult decision. Jfood loves Black Cod and when he saw the “Amerluzza Gratinada” he was set. The explanation of the dish is pan-roasted black cod (under an oozy blanket of browned cilantro mayo) with seared blue prawns. Black bean sauce (infused with wood roasted poblano chiles), nori chochoyotes, chatrales-avocado salsa. Whew, that’s a lot to take in. Jfood did not know what some of the ingredients were but boy it sounded good. And after the first bite it was perfection on a plate. On the side were a few freshly made tortillas to soak up the extra black bean sauce. To manage expectations, though, the amount of cod is about 2 oz and there were two prawns. But after finishing the plate it was more than enough, yet Jfood wanted more.

Now to rewind to the appetizer. As Jfood mentioned he wanted cerviche and there on the menu was “Trio Trio Trio” a triptych of cerviches, the first a lime marinated sunfish, the second calamari and shrimp tossed with lime, orange, habanero, etc and lastly a seaside cocktail which was shrimp cocktail. Each was excellent but Jfood's least favorite was the cocktail. It was just too similar to a regular old shrimp cocktail, and this was the only non-perfect dish, just too ordinary for the Bayless brilliance.

The service was a little weak but for a good reason. It was quite obvious that Jfood's server was a little out her element, almost green in service. She was very nice but was not familiar at all with the menu compared to the server at adjoining tables. In fact she kept coming back to recommending the tasting menu and even recommended two appetizers and an entrée (that would have been too much food). You could almost feel for her. At the end of the meal Jfood had a pleasant conversation with the MOD while he waited for his jacket about how great everything was and he mentioned that 2 servers called in sick and Jfood's server was filling in from Frontera Grill. So kudos to Jfood's server for stepping up, but they should give a little help to the newbie.

Also be prepared to pay for this wonderfulness. Appetizers start at $15 and entrees start at $35 (other than some Encilladas). Tasting menus (5-course) are $80-90 and if you would like the wine pairings, add another $50.

So in the Jfood ratings, Topolobampo receives a 10.

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