Monday, June 7, 2010


I can't believe I almost forgot to review Xoco.  Xoco is Rick Bayless's newest restaurant and is a casual sandwich/torta shop.

The downside is they don't take reservations.  I met a friend there at 1:30 in the afternoon and we waited nearly 40 minutes just to order our food. 

Not many places are worth the wait but this one was.  I had the Jamon torta with La Quercia Prosciutto Picante, Otter Creek Organic cheddar, black beans, avocado, chipotle mustard, and a fried egg for $12.50.  It was heaven.  And big enough that I got 2 meals out of it.  I had an aqua fresca that was to die for.  I believe it was hibiscus flavored.

They also serve caldos (soups), bean-to-cup hot chocolate, churros, and breakfast as well.

This place isn't too far from my office.  I'd be back once a week if the line wasn't so long.  Highly recommend if you get hungry during off meal times though.

Friday, June 4, 2010


We scored a reservation at L2O for Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.  Saturdays are all booked up months in advance and this isn't a week night type of place in my world.

For men, jackets are preferred.  Don't be the douchebags we saw that show up in jeans and an untucked polo.  People were giving them The Look. Oh wait, that was me.  This isn't the Olive Garden.

We were seated in the lounge where we started with drinks.  Nick had the strawberry-basil Caipirinha with fresh strawberries, Thai basil, and Leblon cachaca.  They brought a silver tray with all the ingredients over to our table and made the drink in front of us. 

I opted for the House Aperitif with sparkling wine and raspberry-rooibos tea cordial.

Then we were taken to our table.  The restaurant is fairly small and very plain, with a Japanese feel.  The focus is definitely on the food and the wonderful service.

There are three dining options.  The fixed price menu is $110 and consists of a raw selection, a warm selection, a main selection, and a dessert.  There is also a 12 course seasonal tasting menu for $165 and a 10 course luxury ingredient tasting menu for $245.  The luxury menu includes things like foie gras, lobster, morels, caviar, and wagyu beef.

The one thing I was disappointed in was they were out of soft shell crab by the time we got there.  This is at least the 3rd restaurant I have been to in the last 2 months that's been out of soft shell crab.  I'm going to start having to make my dinner reservations at 5 pm to get it.

We decided to be adventurous and try the 12 course seasonal tasting menu.  I love shellfish but I'm actually not a huge fan of fish but I figured if anyone did fish right, it was this restaurant.

We were very impressed with the sommelier who selected a wonderful wine for us that was only $44 for the bottle.  When I asked for a suggestion I was worried I'd get one out of our league.  The wine was so good that I've hunted it down at a local wine store and am going to go pick up a case.

We had multiple amuse bouches at this restaurant.  Our 12 course meal actually turned into 17 courses.  Our first was salmon tartare with cactus and a dried banana chip.  The tartare was excellent.

The second amuse bouche was octopus.

Then came the bread.  A mini baguette and a mini croissant for Nick.

And an onion and anchovy roll (don't get this if you're on a date) and a butter roll for me.

And although we've been shoving food into our mouths for a long time already, our tasting menu actually starts.  The first of the raw courses was the medai with a plum sauce.  The medai was excellent and the plum sauce was very tart and lingered in your mouth for a long time.

Raw course #2 was an tuna tartare taco with dried corn and a cilantro sauce.  This was one of our favorites of the night.  The dried corn gave it a great crunch.

The third course was tofu.  This was the only one we didn't like.  Enough that Nick asked "why would anyone want to be a vegetarian?" after tasting it.

Our last raw course was fluke (flounder).  Also one of our favorites, there were teeny dried shrimp and chiles in the bowl.

On to the warm courses, our fifth course was the salted cod with fingerling potatoes, smoked ribbon, and caviar.  These were the best potatoes I have ever had.  So smooth and creamy.

The next was Tai snapper with ingredients to taste like a Thai curry.  I'm not a huge fan of curry but the fish was so soft and buttery.  It came with a green thing that had been in liquid nitrogen so that smoke came out of your mouth when you ate it.

The last warm course was my favorite of the whole evening.  This was peekytoe crab in a foie gras emulsion. 

And a close-up.

The 8th course and the first of the main courses was shabu-shabu hiramasa.  You get to cook the fish and accompanying greens, and mushrooms in the pot, then dip it in the sauce.

Course number nine was where I hit a wall.  So full but so much good food left to come.  This was halibut with peas, arugula dumpling, bacon butter, radish, and onions.  The bacon butter didn't taste bacon-y enough for me.  I think they were going for a more subtle flavor.

The last main course was beef short ribs with Pinot Blanc, consomme, and spring onions.  Had a slightly Asian taste to it. By this point I couldn't fit any more meat into my mouth I was so full.

Next, it was time for the desserts.  We got not only the 2 desserts from the tasting menu, but 3 additional desserts.  I'm not a huge sweets person so 5 was too many.  They were very good though.

The first was this little bite of chocolate.  Very rich and intense chocolate flavor.

The next dessert was perfect although I forget exactly what it was.  They talk too fast and there's too many courses to remember!  It was a pineapple flavored nugget in a pineapple flavored light cream.  The cream was so light and such a good finish after so much food.

This was the first of the two dessert courses on the menu and was raspberry, golden yuzu, and mascarpone.  There were little gold flecks in there with teeny individual nubs of raspberry.  I feel kind of bad for whoever's job it was to separte each raspberry into the little nubs.  This was quite a work of art.

And finally the last course of our tasting menu was a peanut butter souffle.  It could be that I'm not a huge peanut butter fan but I wasn't that impressed.  Sure it was good.  But it wasn't a work of art like the previous dish and the taste wasn't outstanding.

Finally, the mignardise.  A chocolate shell with almond flavored filling and a coffee macaron with chocolate filling.  This macaron rivaled the ones I had in France.  I'm sure it would have been the best macron of my life except I don't like coffee anything.  The coffee flavors were subtle though and it was delicious.

I think with 5 dessert courses one of them should have been a cheese course.  That could just be me, the cheesehead, talking.  The meal was spectacular.  The service was phenomenal, you barely knew they were there.

L2O is part of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants.  Around Christmas every year they run a promotion where if you buy $100 in gift cards for gifts, you get a $25 gift card free to use.  The $25 gift card is usually valid between January and March and not valid for Saturday after 6 pm.  We stocked up on these at Christmas specifically for this dinner and got another whole free meal out of it at another restaurant with our free gift cards.