THE MEANING OF “MOTO” AND WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT
- Chef/Owner: Homaru Cantu
- Location: 945 W. Fulton Market, Chicago IL 60607
- Cuisine: Molecular Gastronomy (uber modern)
- Site: http://www.motorestaurant.com/
- Price: $175 16-course tasting
- Rating: Excellent
moto is a world famous Chicago restaurant known for bringing molecular gastronomy to the world stage. Molecular gastronomy is the application of science to the culinary arts. The world “moto” itself means ” manner of movement; particularly, movement with increased rapidity”. Technical descriptions aside, moto is fine dining at its most adventuresome.
THE FIRST TIME IS ALWAYS THE SWEETEST
I surprised my husband Bernard with a dinner at moto for his birthday. We chose the 10-course tasting menu. Chef Cantu actually requires diners at the same table to select the same tasting menu. It ensures a smooth and communal dining experience. Considering my experience with the 10-course menu, I can only assume Zagat is correct in saying “diners know that dinner at moto is not to be taken lightly. The 16-course molecular-gastronomy-driven menu engages all of the senses.” One diner was quoted as saying, “I have never consumed so little and tasted so much.”
THE MOTO EXPERIENCE
The décor is very Zen like. I was expecting clinical. The music, lighting and general mood of the servers puts diners in a relaxed state of mind. The wait staff is surprisingly stealthy. When not suddenly appearing at your table-side, they seem to blend into the background.
There are three tasting menus to choose from: 5-course, 10-course and GTM (16). Supposedly, no matter which menu you choose, you will be presented with the same amount of food. The larger the tasting package, the smaller the servings for each dish. That’s brilliant! I’ve tried some tasting menus which did not adjust serving sizes based on the number of courses and it was simply overwhelming.
I didn’t think to take photos of our dinner at the time, so the photos in this article are from the current MOTO website.
The dishes are presented with great flare and creativity. My favorite was a flamboyant dish that a couple next to us received: the nitro sushi roll. It is a sushi role with a seaweed sauce that is cooled with liquid nitrogen. When the nitrogen is spooned over the sushi roll, you can hear a loud crackling at the sushi wrap is immediately frozen. The liquid nitrogen also creates a dry-ice effect resulting in a billowy mist that rises from the bowl to flow over the sides. It is quite impressive. Unfortunately, the woman being presented with this unexpected dish was not feeling adventurous and refused to take even one bite. It looked too bizarre. I was pleased to see that after several minutes of cajoling from her date, she agreed to give it a try.
WHERE EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
The most unique dish Bert and I tried was the Steak and Eggs. True brilliance can take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. In this case, the steak and eggs were presented on a steel platform folded into the shape of an open laptop. Inserted in two holes at the top of the mental stand was a spoon and fork. Each utensil had Basil wrapped around the stem. The idea is that we would inhale the aroma of the Basil while eating the dish, thereby scenting the Steak and Eggs with the aroma of the herbs. The egg was poached into a square form and infused with a spinach gel. It was served with five slices of rare sirloin and one crispy hash brown cube.
The chef looks at each dish that is returned to the kitchen after a course and will send a replacement dish if it appears a diner did not like the previous dish. For instance, I did not care for my Monk fish dish (you may remember this from my Alimentari review), so they sent me a quail and pasta dish (it was actually a lot more creative than that description). Later, because I did not complete the Sirloin Ceviche, the waiter remarked “I told the kitchen you were feeling full, so they sent this really small dessert.” He presented it to me with a warm smile. Once he placed the dish on the table, I realized the dessert was very, very small. It consisted of a sheet of edible paper and an egg sized scoop of ice cream. I concluded, that the smile I originally thought was warm may have been teasing.
OUR TEN COURSE TASTING
Here’s a recap of our courses. The photo below is of a more current 16-course menu but I decided to include it simply for the beauty.
Pre-tasting – Edible menu made of corn chowder chip (card), filo sheet (as paper) with words printed in squid ink. The patent was still pending on this technique when I last visited.
1st – Soup and Salad: Two separate soups in a bowl. The green soup has the same flavor as a caesar salad, while the red soup tastes like a slice of cheese and tomato pizza.
2nd Ginger Beer Fizz: Though no root beer is used, it had the taste of sweet tea, lilac and a wonderful dessert wine.
3rd – Seared Monk fish with white truffle powder and monk beans
4th – Pasta and Quail: Chicken fried quail, white truffle powder and crispy elbow noodles
5th – Steak and Eggs: Seared sirloin, one square poached egg with a spinach gel center and a crispy hash brown cube.
6th – Goat Cheese Snow: Flash frozen Goat cheese infused with basil
7th – Strawberry and Cream: An edible sheet of rice paper containing a image of a strawberry ice cream cone image, and yes, the paper tasted like strawberry ice cream. It also included small print at the bottom stating that a copy right and patent is pending. Another sheet was infused with an intense and smooth taste of Cotton Candy. The third part of the dessert appeared to be a frozen bon-bon covered with sprinkles. When I bit into the bon-bon, it instantly dissolved into a warm flow of brandy and cherry liqueur. Oh, the wonders of science!
8th – Chicago Dog: This is a dessert which is designed to look like a hotdog. The bun is shortbread. The hot dog is a tube of raspberry sorbet. The cheese is a thin slice asian pear and the mustard was a citrus puree.
9th – Coconut and Rum: This dessert was all white and consisted of layers of custard and pineapple surrounded by a white chocolate shell topped with vanilla foam, and small mounds of pineapple powder, pineapple ginger sorbet and carmel popcorn placed around the edges of the plate.
Even though I’ve dined at moto three times, I always tell the uninitiated that it is an once-in-a-lifetime experience. I hope you get a chance to enjoy Chef Cantu’s creations. In the mean time, enjoy these photos of 16-courses at moto.
I am a strong believer in individual accountability and collective action. When not reading, working or blogging, I’m supporting my favorite charities: Teen Living Programs where I am a volunteer and Executive Board member and YWCA Chicago where I am an Associate Board Member. I am passionate about causes related to supporting youth, women and families. Particularly in the areas of education, social services and housing. I can be reached at email@example.com if you would like to know more about my charities or the blog.