Monday, September 6, 2010

Salpicon

Last Sunday was a busy day. It started at 4:00 AM when my alarm went off. I was in the Chicago Sprint Triathlon, and my start time was 6:04 AM. I'd packed the night before, and my plan was to ride my bike to the starting line. When I hopped on my bike however, I realized that my front tire was low on air. I pumped it back up, but then it just seemed to leak uncontrollably. I'd never changed a flat before, but I had no other choice. After multiple attempts, I finally changed the tube and was on my way. I barely made it to the starting line in time, but ultimately the race was very successful. After the race, my cheering section (my parents and Maddie) and I went back to the 11 City Diner for breakfast. My parents wanted to go to Yolk, but the wait was 45 minutes. Also, I'd like to say that 11 City was good, but the breakfast isn't nearly as good as the lunch/dinner menu (maybe 3.5 pearls for breakfast vs. the  (5) I gave for dinner).

It was my Mom's birthday, so after breakfast, my parents went together to the White Sox game. I went home to study the differences among the types of Gram - bacteria. We all got back together (Lisa too) for dinner in Old Town. I'm not sure exactly how my dad heard about this place, but he suggested we hit up Salpicon. I hadn't heard much about it except from Maddie who'd been there twice. All I knew was that it was an upscale Mexican restaurant that had a monstrous selection of tequila.

Logistics
Salpicon is a relatively small restaurant on the second floor of a building in the less busy part of Old Town near Wells and Division. Accordingly, there's plenty of parking on that part of the street. We had a reservation, and it's basically required because of the size. I don't think they accommodate walk ins well unless it's an off time.

Our waiter was knowledgeable, but to a ridiculous level. Before we could even think about asking him for advice on the menu, he went into a lengthy speech on the differences in all of their tequilas. Then, after bringing our drinks, he went into a diatribe on each menu item that was supposedly so unique that you couldn't get it anywhere else in the city. Although he was an ideal waiter with service and refilling water and all, we were literally dreading every time he came to the table. I thought my dad would stop him from talking at one point, but we kept thinking he would stop on his own (even though he never really did until other tables needed him). My suggestion here is to make a reservation at a relatively busy time so that your waiter doesn't have time to annoy you.

The cost is another issue here. The menu has some reasonable options (for an upscale restaurant) with appetizers around $8 and entrees from $18-$28. On the menu it said that the house margarita was $7, and we all asked the waiter for one. He then asked us if we like light, medium, or full bodied tequila (and we responded accordingly). I guess he took it upon himself to upgrade the tequila to a specific type, thus making our drinks $13 (only discovered when the bill arrived). Also, I don't like it when the only suggestions made are the most expensive options. Obviously the pricier items are probably special, but he made it seem like the lower priced entrees were not worth getting. Between the actual prices and the price of deception, it came out to more than $50 per person.

The Food
Like I said, we all started with some margaritas. He said what specific tequilas were in each, but in our lecture on the menu I forgot what those were. For our appetizers we got the Trio de Tamalitos (3 little tamales) and the Queso Fundido con Camarones (Chihuahua Cheese Fondue with Chiles and Shrimp). The Tamales were pretty good with lots of interesting spicy sauces and cheeses. The tamales themselves were nice and soft as well. The waiter wouldn't stop raving about the Fondue, and I don't really know why. It was well spiced, but basically it was just a pot of hot cheese with some shrimp.

 The Margarita

The Queso Fudido con Camerones

The Trio de Tamalitos

For the entree my mom got the Roasted Duck with Plantains in a Mole sauce, my dad got Lamb Loin with Tamales, Lisa got a Roasted Chicken Dish with Queso Fresco and a tomato based sauce, and I got the Sea Bass with Caramelized Mushrooms and Onions in a Spicy Chile sauce. Since I'd just had duck at Frontera, I decided not to order it, but I got to try some of my mom's. It nice and rare with a not overwhelmingly spicy kick. My dad's Lamb was really juicy and tender, and the tamales were better than the appetizer. Lisa's Roasted Chicken was moist and had a nice crispness to the exterior. I loved my dish. The fish had a nice exterior crisp, and it was perfectly cooked in the middle. The sauce was very spicy, but overall everything balanced well between the veggies, sauce, and fish.

 The Roasted Duck with Plantains and a Dark Mole

The Lamb Loin and Tamales

The Roasted Chicken with Onions and Queso Fresco

The Sea Bass with Caramelized Mushrooms and Onions

For dessert we had a Mocha Cake of sorts with Vanilla Ice Cream. It was rich, tasty, and refreshing. Not that it was large, but after the plenty of food we'd just had, it was the right amount to leave us all with a sweet taste at the end.

 The Mocha Cake and Ice Cream


Overall
Across the board, the entrees were fantastic. They were each built around a unique chile that is probably not used too much in the city. The sauces were complex and packed a punch. Still, from the obnoxious service and the cost, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. It was the opinion of everyone there that although the food was tasty that no one really wanted to come back. If I could be promised to eat in peace, I would definitely come back. I thought the food was worth it and am giving Salpicon 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.


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