CLICK ON THE MAIN PHOTO ABOVE TO VIEW CAPTIONS IN GALLERY FORMAT
Image 1: As usual, no time was wasted! After dropping off my small suitcase at the hotel, it was just a five minute taxi ride to Fulton Street, the meat packing district in Chicago. I have no idea why someone would open an upscale restaurant in one of the quietest areas in town!
Image 2: The image I had of Moto was of a mad scientist chef, Homaro Cantu, who uses a squid ink printer to create edible menu on parmesan paper. This was the first course of his tasting menu when the restaurant first opened. Homaro began his inventive career after working in more than 50 restaurants in the country and had slowly become a prominent figure at the forefront of scientific cooking.
Image 3: It was a quiet Tuesday dinner service with only 10 customers and hence they sat everyone in the basement private room. Bad for the restaurant but great for solo diners like myself since the staff were more engaging and able to provide a more private dining experience. This room had a huge periodic table of elements as the backdrop and was decorated with laboratory equipment! Hilarious!
Image 4: To start off the "chemistry lecture" dining experience, the manager led me to the laboratory area walking me through the equipment involved in creating the tasting menu of the evening. Very intriguing!
Image 5: Here was the distiller that produced my welcome drink...
Image 6: … a shot glass of non-alcoholic spiced Granny Smith apple cider. A nice refreshing start!
Image 7: My menu of the night was printed from a laser printer, literally! They used laser to carve out letter by letter! And to provide an overview of the menu, the first plate was a Tasting of tasting!
Image 8: A summary of the thirteen courses from the bottom left to the top right - Marinated micro green salad, apple puree, coquito nuts, cured egg yolk, caramelized onion, crispy inoki mushroom, roasted potato, spicy rice, mole sauce, smoked pistachio, young strawberry, ginger and apple, and finally chocolate mousse with lemon crumbles. What a fun and clever idea!
Image 9: And now to the first actual course of the tasting menu: Growroom.
Image 10: A mix micro leaves of mizuna, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi. They were already washed and used as…
Image 11: … garnish to the buffalo tartare. This moist and tender meat was seasoned with pepper, shallot, olive oil, and lemon zest, topped by a thin layer of crunchy potato noodle. Superb opening course!
Image 12: For the second course, on the left was Aged carrot sticks soaked in sodium oxide and then roasted to make it dried and tough. Interesting but not pleasant to eat!
Image 13: On the right was gently poached trout in olive oil where the skin was pressed and fried separately, resulting in a ultra crunchy texture. Paired with braised fennel and drops of intense fennel gel, this trout was very delicately cooked giving a melt-in-mouth sensation. Excellent!
Image 14: A striking display of Ocean flavour with a variety of black seaweed underneath. Served on the glass top was a mixture of seared scallop slices, dehydrated scallop, kombu, pear, coquito, and coconut purée. They cleverly paired this course with a glass of Vouvray that had a strong hint of mineral amplifying the shellfish flavour.
Image 15: However, the course itself, both the taste and texture were all over the place. What I found remarkable, however, was this dehydrated scallop crisps! The scallop was first cooked before being sliced and dried, extracting all moisture! I loved Chinese dried scallop for its concentrated flavour but who would have thought of having dried scallop as crisp!
Image 16: Next up was Which came first? A course of chicken and egg.
Image 17: To suit the theme, an egg shell, which had a silky egg custard inside and topped with Australia black truffle, was served on a nest.
Image 18: And three preparations of chicken served on a bed of creamy grit with spinach purée: seared breast, minced thigh, and crispy leg. I quickly realised the chicken had an intense taste and later found out it was sourced from Amish farm in Pennsylvania where their birds were fed from scraps of 3-star restaurants like
Image 19: Allium 3.0 A taste of the allium family from onion to chives - herbalised onion, leek pearl, crispy shallot, pickled onion, black garlic drops, scallion, and smoked rabbit loin, all rested on caramelised onion custard. This giant "Bordeaux glass" bowl did a great job of gathering the fragrance. A complex mix of flavour and texture; very tasty but slightly too powerful.
Image 20: The Fallen log was represented by salsify, cooked sous-vide before roasted, accompanied by wild mushroom powder and fiddlehead fern. The salsify had a good amount of sweetness, but still, the course was bland.
Image 21: At the half way mark of the menu was a Thyme capsule.
Image 22: With the hot stone underneath, the box continued to release a lovely aroma while I enjoyed my skewer of lamb and pork belly with the potato. Despite the lamb and the potato being too dry, the pork belly have a good proportion of fat-to-meat with a lovely smell from the charcoal.
Image 23: Then a "three-tier oven" was used for the Beef and Broccoli course.
Image 24: While I was eating the Texas Wagyu and cauliflower on top, the bottom tiers continued to cook. This was one of the many in-house inventions where the bottom tray was so hot that it was steaming the middle tier. As a side note, the beef was overpowered by the oyster sauce.
Image 25: The next tier were simple steamed broccoli florets.
Image 26: The best of the three tiers was at the bottom, a broth of shiitake and maitake mushroom. Very earthy with well balanced flavours.
Image 27: The meal continued with a Mexican influenced course of Sus Scrofa, wild boar. A mixture of minced wild boar shoulder, black sesame wafer, crispy mulberry and traditional mole sauce underneath. This was my least favourite dish of the meal - strong taste with weird textures. But to be fair, Mexican food is never my favourite cuisine.
Image 28: It seemed that many restaurants nowadays needed a course of Picnic and in here, they did it for the cheese.
Image 29: Hidden inside the tall grass were four types of cheese: white cheddar, blue cheese, black truffle infused cow cheese and goat cheese. I was surprised that no bread was served for the night, not even for the cheese!
Image 30: Before getting onto the sweet courses, a palate cleanser of Strawberry and Cream. Green strawberry and ricotta sorbet with dehydrated milk crisp.
Image 31: A very unusual dessert of Date cake at the bottom layered with ginger cured, pear foam, diced pear and edible flowers.
Image 32: More dessert. Chocolate mousse completely dusted with lemon crumble and dressed with lemon sorbet, rings of lemon, and micro basil. Hmmm... sharp lemon sorbet, sweet chocolate mousse, bitter lemon peel ring, and a hint of refreshing mint. Poor combination really!
Image 33: The last course was Toasted marshmallow on the table! Encapsulated in the vanilla bean marshmallow was chocolate ganache. I was asked to toast them to my liking. Creative!
Image 34: And the final item of the evening, petits fours: edible stone, ginger bark, and cranberry leaf.
Image 35: I then had a long chat with the manager where he shared the thinking process behind many courses before he led me to a behind-the-scene tour and introducing me to the whole kitchen team.
Image 36: And my last stop of the visit was a small greenhouse developed by the team where they grew all their micro plants.
Image 37: Overall, I did like the whole scientific theme - the real laser printer, the creativity for the meal, the house-made equipment, and the laboratory environment. Fun and innovative meal! However, in terms of food alone, the opening courses of tartare and trout were outstanding, but as you read, the rest of the courses required obvious fine tuning. Definitely a place to be revisited!