In a nutshell, molecular gastronomy is the application of science principles to food preparation and presentation. We see this in full-effect at moto in Chicago, where food and science meet in a playful frolic across your plate. We went all-out and opted for the GTM (Grand Tour Moto), a 20-course, 5-hour extravaganza. At times, it was a phenomenal mix of fantastic food and showmanship, sometimes less-so. But it definitely resulted in an interesting meal at the end of the night.
Here are the highlights of the meal – you can browse through all the dishes and menus of that night via the gallery below.
Presented with both our menu and amuse at the same time. Printed on edible paper and “glued” to a crisp flat bread that had a slight chew. Embedded with black sea salt and set on a parsnip and a spinach purée. Quite a tasty start to the night and I really enjoyed the texture of the flat bread. Hard to describe it quite right.
Presented as Bubble Tea. A ginger-infused watermelon broth with Thai basil, and lemon-ceviche scallop “tapioca.” I was worried that the broth would be too sweet, or even worse, too gingery, but it was all quite subtle.
A Red bull paella with fried/crisped rice, saffron and smoked paprika “roe,” and fish. Liquefied paella (out of a Red Bull can). Fried parsley leaf. While very visually appealing, I thought this was a less-successful dish and the “roe” didn’t impart any flavour as I’d hoped.
This was the Clam Bake, a delicious preparation of butter-poached lobster and sweet corn. The small scallops are actually seared potatoes. In the handle of the spoon was a fresh sprig of tarragon, using the aroma released by the warmth and bruising of your hand to “flavour” the dish.
My favourite dish of the night – the Cuban Cigar. A remix of a Cuban sandwich, rolled in bread crumbs, fried, then wrapped in confited collard greens. Some red pepper purée for the ember and white and black sesame for ash. Really a fantastic dish and the presentation and re-engineering of it was stellar.
Maitake & pork belly braised in simulated nuoc mam (dark caramel, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, Thai chilies), and a maitake mushroom puff (freeze-dried), lily bulb, and Chinese rapini. A pleasing dish, but it’s hard to go wrong with pork belly.
Initially presented to us as a canoli dessert to try and psych us out, this Duck & Molé dish was quite tasty. Confit duck, chocolate mole, lime foam, pumpkin seeds, and jalapeno and corn powdered “sugar” in a tortilla “canolo”. One diner had a re-run of this dish, as he was still hungry (!!) at the end of his meal.
This Green curry lime slice is made up of an interior of lime and curry, a pith of coconut and a rind of cilantro. On top are finger lime vesicles. Very refreshing.
I’d be hard-pressed not to like the Acme bomb. Marshmallow wick, liquid graham interior, and a dark chocolate shell. Mmm… s’mores.
Though well-known, moto seems to get treated like the other sister in many food circles, mostly in favour of Alinea. Maybe it’s my inexperience with MG dining or that I had no expectations of this meal, but it was a really enjoyable evening at moto. While all the requisite elements of fine-dining are in place (minus the location of the odoriferous meat-packing district), moto takes a light-hearted approach to their dishes, giving the night a more playful spin. Certainly, there are better (many worse) restaurants out there, but moto still holds its own and didn’t disappoint.