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Dinner at Moto

So, I took Stephan Spencer out to a restaurant here in Chicago tonight that I was dying to try out: Moto Restaurant. We’re both here for the SES Conference, and it’s my first time in Chicago proper, so I wanted to try something I couldn’t get at home in Dallas. Moto had caught my eye because the chef, Homaro Cantu, is apparently something of a mad scientist. He’s known for using all sorts of bizarre ingredients and methods to create his food, and the place has this dangerously edgy feel to it that makes you feel like you’re engaging in borderline risky behaviour, just by eating there.

If you know Stephan, you might know that he tends to prefer simpler food in general, so he nearly balked at the idea of going. Once we’d arrived and had the first course or so, I think he was starting to think that the whole thing might be some horrifying Fu Manchu torture, or perhaps a really bad joke on my part. Read on for more details.


First, we ate the entire menus. Literally — the menus were constructed out of edible materials, sort of like the Chocolate Room in Willy Wonka’s factory.

First Course: The Menu at Moto

The salad was made into a soup. They tried to feed Stephan garbage juice for his drink when he didn’t want to go with their wine menu (I’m not making this up!). At least they did get him a new drink when he naturally hated the garbage juice.

The main entrees were served with “Aromatic Utinsels” which were supposed to be sniffed while one chewed the food. These entrees were served on battleship plates (imagine plates shaped like the battleship gameboard units — I kept wanting to yell out “G-4”, hoping to hear Stephan cry back “You have sunk my battleship!”).

Portions of my food were apparently generated in a vacuum chamber. Others were frozen with liquid nitrogen. Still others were created in other unique ways.

The “Donut Forms” desert was interesting, though I think the “Donut Soup” was a bad idea. The final desert course was described as a styrofoam packing peanut. By the time we got to this point, I was starting to feel like I was having an out-of-body experience.

For more detailed descriptions of the food and dining experience, check out my flickr pix of Moto Restaurant.

Although I poke a lot of fun at Moto’s high-concept food here and on Flickr, I really enjoyed it and would like to eat there again. It’s the sort of food you’d get if you crossed Salvador Dali with a mad scientist and an Iron Chef.

Incidentally, this blog posting and the associated pix on Flickr are a pretty good example of the steps I’m recommending in my talk tomorrow morning on the subject of optimizing through image sharing sites.

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