Tag Archives: mexican

XOCO | Chicago

10 Jul

XOCO | Chicago

Tortas (Mexican sandwiches), chocolate (xoco), and churros (fried dough) is what Rick Bayless’s casual place adjoining Frontera is all about.

******** Breakfast

Huevos Rancheros (4/5): “2 eggs, roasted tomato-serrano sauce, corn tortillas black beans, homemade fresh cheese.” Eggs and salsa really make the dish delicious, and the corn tortilla with black bean paste

Churros: (4.5/5). Well done. I don’t particular like donuts, but this was relatively non-greasy, crispy, and coated in delicious chocolate flecked sugar. Technically, excellent.

Chocolate drinks are fantastic at XOCO – in fact they give the restaurant its name! They grind their cacao nibs fresh. These are some of the best chocolate drinks I’ve ever had.

Authentic (4.75/5): “Fresh-ground Chocolate + Water”

Aztec (5/5): “fresh-ground chocolate + water + chile + allspice” A spicy sour-tinge in this chocolate gives it a kick above the normal authentic

Iced Chocolate with Bayless Garden Mint (5/5). As perfect a mint chocolate as I’ve ever had. Cacao nibs mixed with actual mint leaves. Rich, and delicious.

******** Lunch/Dinner


Chipotle Chicken Torta (4/5): Gunthorp chicken, chipotle-roasted tomato sauce, artisan Jack cheese, avocado, black beans, arugula. A good chicken sandwich, if a bit spicy.

Pork Belly Torta (3.5/5): Dark salsa negra glaze, bacon, arugula, queso anejo. A bit too sparing on the pork, you can taste more of the bacon strips in this one.

Chicharrones (5/5): Chicharrones, Tamazula hot sauce, queso añejo, onions, cilantro. Chicarrones is pig skin, seasoned and deep fried. The chicarrones here is fluffy. In Singapore, if we don’t roast our pig skin to a crisp (roasted fatty pork, pork knuckle or suckling pig), we usually eat it wet with yong tau foo. This is one of the few time’s I’ve eaten crispy yet fluffy pig skin.

Ahogada Torta (4.25/5): “Golden pork carnitas, black beans, tomato broth, spicy arbol chile sauce, pickled onions.” Make a crispy sandwich pork. Promptly dump it in a spicy chili-tomato soup. You get a delicious mess that is hard to eat. I was surprised the sandwich didn’t fall apart in my hands.

Special mention must be made of the salsa, which is also made on Rick Bayless’s rooftop. A rooftop in Chicago, apparently. Now, rooftop gardens are all the rage. Gracie’s in Providence once carted a lot of soil up Peerless Lofts to make fresh herbs.


Verdict: Frontera’s sandwich cousin. Sandwiches are good here, but the real stars are the chocolate, churros, and chicharrones.


In order:

Chipotle Chicken sandwich 1,
Chipotle Chicken sandwich 2,
Iced Chocolate w/ Mint,
Pork Belly sandwich 1,
Pork Belly sandwich 2,
Aztec Chocolate,
Huevos Rancheros,
Ahogada sandwich,
Authentic Chocolate,

Frontera Grill | Chicago

8 Jul

Brunch Menu

Being located 3 blocks away from Rick Bayless’s tri-conglomeration of XOCO, Frontera Grill, and Topolobampo has its perks. One thing is that good Mexican is never far away.

Rick Bayless, as a primer, was studying for a PhD in linguistics at the University of Michigan, when he moved to Meixco from 1980-1986. There, he learnt Mexican cooking, and then brought it back to Chicago. When Obama was inaugurated, Rick Bayless was apparently in the running to be White House executive chef.

I’ve been to Frontera twice now. (and XOCO 4 times). So far, I have not been disappointed.


Chilaquiles al Guajillo (5/5) – “Quick-simmered tortilla “casserole” with rustic red guajillo chile sauce, homemade crema, aged Mexican cheese (queso anejo), sunny-side up egg. Tangy baby greens.” Savory and fresh greens, great tasting sauce. Tortillas were semi-crisp – after sitting in sauce, they were a delicious mess.

Duo de Flanes (4.25/5) – “A duo of caramel custards: coconut milk-lemongrass flan with honey Manila mango salsa, plus silky Mexican vanilla. ” had a rich, sticky texture, in the region of peanut-butter stickiness. The custard cake contrasted well with the mango and wisps of coconut.


Lamb Shoulder in Black Mole (4.5/5) – “Grill-seared lamb shoulder braised in black mole, Nichols Farm potatoes, grilled calabacitas, anejo cheese.” Mole means sauce in Mexican. For this dish, I believe the “mole” here is a chocolate sauce. It was rich, and there were quite a few potatoes in the dish. It went excellently with tacos – the only minor complaint might be that the potato-lamb ratio was skewed in favour of potato.

Duck “Carnitas” Flautas (4.5/5) – “Crispy, crunchy taquitos of slow-cooked duck carnitas, (grilled white onions, garlic mojo). Tangy red chile escabeche, orange “shoots salad.”

Ceviche Trio – “Frontera Ceviche (albacore, tomato, olive), Yucatecan Ceviche (shrimp, squid, orange, cucumber), Tropical Tuna Cocktail (big eye, avocado-tomatillo, mango salsa)”
Yucatan Ceviche (4.75/5) – nice and limey, good contrast with shrimp and squid
Tropical Tuna Cocktail (5/5) – out of this world, perfectly salted avocado. Sweet mango complemented tuna perfectly
Frontera Ceviche (4/5) – another sour one.

Smoky-Creamy-Spicy Mushrooms (4.75/5) – “Brown beech, hedgehog, oyster, shiitake & black trumpet mushrooms, white sweet potato, Oaxacan pasilla crema, epazote.”

Verdict: Just go. Frontera only serves brunch on Saturdays, so it’s a once-a-week thing. Rick Bayless’s Mexican is magical.

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