Hello, Moto

December 24 2006

If I may share the joy of the holidays for a moment....no, this isn't about some new cell phone.  :-)

My father is an observant man, and noticed at some point that my girlfriend is quite a "foodie".  So his holiday gift to us was dinner at Moto, one of the hottest and most creative restaurants in Chicago.

What is Moto?  Well, it's pretty hard to describe.  The executive chef, Homaro Cantu, has been profiled everywhere from the New York Times to Fast Company.

Even before the session begins, there are a few clues that this is not your average fine-dining establishment. Start with the Class IV laser, normally used for surgery, on prominent display in the dining room. At Moto, it's an important cooking tool. Then there's the huge tank of industrial-use liquid nitrogen in the backyard, used to freeze things that are normally hot and to mold foods into wholly unnatural shapes.
Whether mad scientist or simply creative chef, it was a dinner we simply had to try.

As it turns out, Christmas weekend was a pretty good choice.  The restaurant was not fully booked, and the staff was relaxed and friendly.  I noticed right away that they all looked pretty young -- later learning that Cantu himself is the oldest of the crew, at 30.  Also, the staff all rotate assignments -- waitstaff for one month, line chef the next.  It must be a heck of a dream job to orchestrate a world-famous restaurant at such a young age.  Thus, they were all having fun.

You lose a little something of the excitement in the fact that everyone in the restaurant has the same meal -- there are only three choices (a 5-course, a 10-course, and a 20-course "gran tour Moto").  But the set menu allows them to work some magic lining up wonderful wine progressions, teaming so that each server works with each table, and orchestrating tours of the kitchen.

I can't really tell you everything I ate last night - so many of the courses had a melange of "deconstructed" ingredients, you would have to be taking notes to get it right.  But I did (try to) capture it by lens.  I only had the pocket camera, and the "no flash photography" rule made it tough, but you should be able to get a virtual idea of what we experienced at Moto in my Moto dinner flickr album (Be sure to view the pictures individually to see the captions; Flickr doesn't show them in slide show mode)

Ninth course - Parsnip and graham cracker

Happy holidays to all, with my best wishes for 2007.  And thanks, Dad.

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