Getting the chance to experience a variety of cuisines is one of the many advantages of living in a cosmopolitan city like Chicago. At every street corner, from the noisy downtown to the peaceful suburbs, different cultures and experiences compete for your attention, allegiance and love. I am glad to live in such a “melting pot,” and I consistently strive to gain a deeper understanding of its various cultures through their cooking traditions and techniques. Last week I had a one of a kind encounter with Mexican cuisine, when myself and other Chicago food bloggers were invited to sample the menu at Mezcalina, an upscale Mexican restaurant located in Lakeshore East. The event was hosted by Daniela and Ricardo, of 2Views1Life.
The restaurant owners’ passion for authenticity and attention to detail was obvious to me as soon as I arrived at Mezcalina. The restaurant was decorated with beautiful paintings and sculptures made by Mexican artists, which created a stylish ambiance and added to the overall dining experience. I was immediately swept me off my feet by the encounter with a historically rich culture and its cuisine, dominated by bold flavors and ingenious mixtures of ingredients.
There is nothing quite like the abundance of vibrant colors and well-balanced flavors I experienced at Mezcalina. From the buttery guacamole and the self-assured octopus ceviche to the velvety tortilla soup, from the pork chops in chile ancho-plum sauce to the shrimp in a pumpkin seed green mole and the roasted poblano pepper stuffed with pork picadillo and drizzled with pomegranate seeds – all the dishes were fresh, well executed and simply delicious. One of my favorites was the corn on the cob served alongside the tortilla soup, which was coated in a yummy mix of cheese and spices. The rosemary mashed sweet potatoes which accompanied the pork chops were another highlight of the night for me. There was also a good selection of vegetarian dishes, all of which benefited from the inclusion of Mexican staple ingredients such as avocado, sweet corn, rice and black beans. The signature cocktails complemented the dishes beautifully and made the occasion even more memorable.
A special note needs to be said about the lamb shank I ate at Mezcalina. For some reason, my stomach has never been particularly fond of lamb (I felt ill the last time I ate lamb, while we were still in England) As such, it took me awhile to decide to give the lamb a try. I’m so glad I conquered my fears and tried it! Marinated for 12 hours and cooked in a delicious mezcal adobo sauce, the lamb fell off the bone and was unbelievably tender. This was so different from the heavy and greasy lamb I’d eaten in the past: it was light as a feather, and surprising like a long forgotten dream.
When dessert time came, I was more than happy to sample the decadent dishes on the menu. The flourless chocolate cake looked as good as it tasted, wrapped in a plantain leaf and served with a generous scoop of gelato on top. The churros were light and crispy, and I loved dipping them in the rich chocolate sauce. I also dipped them in the gelato on the flourless cake: in both cases, the flavors were pure bliss! I ended the evening with a cup of espresso. I don’t know how they made it, but it was velvety, non-acidic, and so light that I actually asked for another cup.
I left Mezcalina late into the night, tired after a long and busy day, yet also very excited after my dining experience. As I faced the cold weather and crossed the silent streets of my beloved Chicago, my soul was full of joy and amazement. I was happy to have found this restaurant in the heart of the city, and to have experienced such a delightful journey through Mexican cuisine. The Mezcalina chefs’ artistry and passion for cooking are obvious to me, and I will definitely keep an eye on them in the future.
*Disclaimer: I was not financially compensated by Mezcalina for this post. All opinions expressed here are my own.