Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Food of the Future

I was in Chicago last week and I had dinner at a restaurant that served the best photograph of chicken I ever eaten. The place is called Moto ; It’s known for creating the latest “high – tech”, Avant-Garde, gourmet dishes around. After eating there, I can honestly say I feel I have experienced the future.

Moto is located in Chicago’s meatpacking district, which in mid-July smells like a wet dog’s crotch. We arrived at the restaurant, which as you might expect was humorlessly modern, very dark, muted colors, barren walls, like an Ikea with more expensive food. The host searched for our reservations until he announced, “Ah, you must have reservations at Moto, this is Otom. Moto is next door.”

We left Otom, sat down at Moto, and we ordered the menu’s ten course meal, which is actually eleven if you count the menu itself, which I do considering I ate it. The menu was made of an edible paper that’s actually quite good. Still there’s something upsetting to me about eating typography, or print of any kind. My friend Steve once drew a cartoon on a pancake with a sharpie and ate it, the pancake not the sharpie. Anyway, the whole thing put me off pancakes and cartoons for about a week.

After finishing the menu, the real food started coming in and what followed were a series of incredibly eccentric, tiny meals, each with it’s own bizarre gimmick. The first course was the “Greek Salads” with featured two separate Greek salads, neither of which looked like anything like a salad. The one on the right side of my plate was made up of two tiny pieces of octopus covered in some kind of lettuce puree, and on the left was an eye dropper filled with clear liquid. The waitress said we should eat some of the salad on the right, and then do a shot of the salad on the left. The liquid salad was interesting, tasted a little bit like drinking Greek salad dressing straight out of the bottle, but it was good. The salad was followed by the “Popcorn Ball”; tiny balls that had been soaking in liquid nitrogen, and crackled in the back of your throat like “pop rocks”. This was similar to the gin and tonic course. A gin and tonic served inside a gelatinous, quivering mound of gel perched on the end of your spoon. You’re instructed to put it all the way in your mouth, bit down, and TA – DA!!… You’re drunk!

The next course was the “House made Pequin Chile Quail” or as I call it “the Picture of Chicken”. It looked like a faded newspaper clipping of chicken wings. It even had a caption underneath describing the meal. It was served on a strip of bent metal and was held in place by a tiny marble. Accompanying the photo was an actual small portion of three-dimensional quail. The photo tasted good, like hot wings you would eat at a sports bar. I have no idea how they got the paper to taste like that, but I can only hope it’s something more scientific then letting it soak at the bottom of a KFC bucket for a few hours.

And then came my favorite meal of all, both in taste and execution, and as they placed it in front of me I was struck by how much “The Road kill of Foul” actually looked like an execution. This was a delicious duck confit prepared to look like a rotting, blood soaked, maggot-covered, animal carcase smeared across the road. The only difference is that this blood was made up of a delightful red beet puree, while the maggots were crafted out of tiny puffed wild rice.

Three hours later the meal was over and I had to admit, I had a lot of fun, the food was great, and the novelty really kept us all entertained the whole time! We were constantly cracking up at the absurdity of each meal. And as I watched my friend take photos of his space food with his thin silver space phone/camera, I truly felt I was witnessing the future of dining, but not fine dinning. I saw instead a vision of tourist and rubes like me getting a big kick out of a place like this. Rolling their eyes and calling the waiter over to make the same old jokes, “ I’m still a little hungry, can I have a “to-go” menu to eat when I get home?”
This restaurant is likely the future Bennigan’s, the future Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, or the future TGI Friday’s, only the irreverent, crazy crap isn’t going to be on the walls, it’ll be on your edible plate.

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