So last week I did something I hadn’t done before: I ate at a hip-and-trendy celebrity-owned restaurant.
Usually, I don’t eat at places like that. While I am relatively demanding and don’t mind paying for quality, I do arrive with high expectations. I have been delighted with many not-so-hip-and-trendy places, such as a couple of very memorable dinners in a 500-year-old inn in Montreal’s old town that didn’t get the press a couple of other places had in the guidebooks.
I went with a friend who returns to teaching in too-few weeks. We did a walking tour of the Loop’s landmarks, and we went to the Merchandise Mart to look at some of the displays. Then we went to the celebrity-owned Mexican restaurant that was the the end point of our quest a few blocks north of the train station.
For me, the wheels came off when we stepped inside the small, dark, crowded dining area. The intense purple walls and dramatic Mexican artwork shrank it further. And loud. Very loud. Every other word being “WHAT?” “SORRY, COULDN’T HEAR YOU!” loud.
The waiter, though, was pleasant. He walked us through the menu after the usual “would you like some chips and guacamole” routine. (At those prices for chips and guac, the celebrity owner had better bring his yoga-toned tush out to the table and mix it up himself for us.)
My friend chose tacos; I chose some tostadas. She was happy. Me? I liked the salad with the pumpkin seed vinaigrette, but the tostadas, not so much. Perhaps it’s a lack of sophistication about Mexican cuisine on my part, but it came across as very bland and too cute. Three tiny corn tortillas topped with refried black beans, chicken, avocado slices and crumbled cojita. It wasn’t bad, but just really bland.
I realize that authentic Mexican cuisine is not about adding enough chili to make flames shoot from the diner’s bodily orifices. I also realize that I have a higher than average tolerance for heat because of the seasoning adjustments Dad made due to his salt-free diet. But this was just really bland. And the presentation was too cute for me. I tried spiking it with the bottle of hot sauce on the table, but that didn’t work very well.
But the salad was fantastic. The company and conversation couldn’t be beat. The iced tea was very refreshing.
I can say that I ate there.
And I never have to do it again.