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Restaurant Week Review: Topolobampo

By Minna A in Food on Feb 25, 2011 7:20PM

Restaurant week may be winding down, but it’s not over yet! Restaurant week runs until Sunday, leaving you plenty of time to squeeze in a reservation or two. Still trying to decide which menu to take on? Read on for a review of one of Chicago’s best R-week deals: Topolobampo.

Topolobampo, and in particular chef Rick Bayless, have become synonymous with Chicago. XOCO, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo monopolize the corner of Clark and Illinois; but hey, we’re not complaining… we’re big fans!

The Menu: Topolobampo’s restaurant week lunch menu is only $22, a steal for the three-course meal that comes with it. The menu only offers one first course option, Sopa Azteca, a chicken broth-based soup with (optional) grilled chicken, toasted tortilla chips, a slice of avocado and a handful of hand-made jack cheese. The presentation of this dish was a surprise, as a empty plate of tortilla chips and cheese was quickly transformed by the waitstaff pouring soup from a saucepan at the table.

As a winning sauce on Top Chef, the mole dish with pork loin, black beans and green beans is a must, simply for the complex 20-ingredient mole itself. If spice is your thing, ask for the amazingly spicy Topolobampo habanero sauce. Be warned: the small dish of ground habanero peppers also comes with a complimentary side - concerned waitstaff’s multiple pleas to, “please, please use only a little. It’s very very very spicy…”

The dessert by Topolobampo’s pastry sous chef Jennifer Jones deserves a round of applause. The crepa con cajeta is a light crepe filled with lavish plantain custard atop peanut butter crumbs, with a side of homemade cajeta (i.e., sour cream sorbet). This dish is like a comforting Mexican take on hot apple pie a la mode.

The Atmosphere: For first time visitors, the interior is a bit confusing, as it is connected to Frontera (and even Xoco). The colorful and fun artwork and colors on the wall make for bright conversations with friends. Even the art installation of butterflies at the front door, inspired by the annual staff trip to Mexico, seems enchanting in this space.

Final Review: If your time and wallet limit your restaurant week choices, make yours Topolobampo. With a flavorful menu of interesting dishes (and a uniquely impressive dessert) in an upscale setting, Topolobampo is one not to be missed!

Topolobampo is located at 445 N. Clark Street. Restaurant week menu prices is $22 for lunch, with wine pairings for each dish available for an additional $15.