Friday, August 5, 2016

Postcard from Bunny: Dinner at Mesa Urbana

Bunny recently stopped into town for a brief visit, and determined as she has been to explore the suburbs this summer, she rounded up her friend Starr and headed into the Glenview/Northbrook area.  "Where should we eat?" Bunny questioned, knowing Starr was more familiar with the area than she was.  "Well, there's a lot of Asian food around here, specifically Korean, so if you're up for that..."  "I did just get back from Seoul, so I would love something a little different.  Say, aren't tacos all the rage in Chicago right now?  Maybe we can find an exciting Mexican restaurant."

After a short while of driving to and fro, the ladies settled on a new restaurant by the name of Mesa Urbana, a Mexican fusion spot concentrating on a variety of share plates and cocktails made from fresh and seasonal ingredients.  "Aside from the fact that I like the idea of fusion restaurants in general," said Bunny, "A place that encourages sharing is exactly what we need in order to taste as much as possible!"

Bunny and Starr started off with a couple of delicious margaritas in Strawberry Pineapple and Watermelon Lime.  Both were perfectly mixed with refreshing and fruity flavors that were fun and vibrant all at the same time.  Bunny especially liked that fresh fruit had been muddled into the drinks, reiterating the point that all of the drinks at Mesa Urbana were made with fresh juice and not from any mixes.  "Oh, these are the most dangerous kind of drinks," Bunny giggled, "I could easily have three or four of these without even realizing it!"

For their appetizers, Bunny and Starr ordered a trio of dishes to share, abiding by the old tea time rule of one for each and one for the table.  First up was the Calamari Frito, served with an intriguing mango sweet chili sauce.  The calamari was perfectly fried so as to be tender and not too chewy, but the sweet, tangy, spicy sauce is what really made the dish truly unique.  Next up, they sampled the Quesadilla De Huitlacoche, made with black bean relish, melty cheese, Mexican herbs, and a huitlacoche, a type of mushroom that grows on corn and has a flavor that resembled truffles.  Bunny and Starr found the quesadilla very earthy with an unexpectedly bitter note that wasn't entirely unwelcome.  The texture was crunchy and gooey all at the same time, as a good quesadilla should be, but still light and fresh.  Lastly, they split an Empanada, which was filled with leeks, artichoke hearts, cream cheese, and lobster.  The casing of the empanada was doughy and buttery, while the interior was creamy, decadent, and very flavorful.  Bunny was happy to see that this dish came served with a side of greens, which helped to brighten up the otherwise very rich empanada filling.

Moving on to entrees, they again obeyed the rule of three.  Wishing to see if the tacos in Northbrook measured up to the high standards of Chicago's booming taco scene, they first sampled the Pescado, or fish tacos, made with pan seared grouper and topped with pineapple relish, cabbage, avocado, and a caper ailoi.  The fish was wonderfully flaky and added to the party of textures in the tacos, from the crunchy cabbage, the juicy relish, and the smooth avocado.  "I always think the true judge of a good taco place is their fish taco," said Bunny, "And this one certainly passes that test!"  Next, they moved on to the Flautes De Pollo, a different style of taco made with chicken, potato, cabbage, avocado, and dressed with plum sauce and creme fraiche.  The flautes had a crispy texture and an over all smokey flavor, making this a more substantial and bold dish than the fresher and lighter fish tacos (a good counter part, Bunny thought).  Lastly, they tried the Camarones Tropical, a shrimp dish made with pineapple, blood orange juice, asparagus, and jasmine rice.  Bunny enjoyed the bright and citrusy flavor of the shrimp, which almost resembled a Chinese style sweet and sour sauce, and actually wished that the sauce had permeated the shrimp a little more.

Finally, Starr and Bunny decided to share a Lava Cake for dessert.  This decadent chocolate cake came topped with macerated cherries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, adding even more richness to an already sinful plate.  The cherries actually helped to even out the dense chocolate cake quite nicely with a dose of tartness, giving it a sophisticated finish.

Aside from the fresh food and the killer cocktails, Bunny was impressed by the friendly and knowledgeable staff, the bright and vibrant decor, and the fact that the place was comfortable even when filled to the brim with customers ("It's rather impressive that they've managed to fill up a suburban restaurant on a weekday evening as well!" Bunny observed).  All in all, Mesa Urbana turned out to be a worthwhile excursion and one that Bunny will be excited to revisit in the future as it grows and evolves.  "Now," she said to Starr as they got back in the car, "Tell me about these Pokemon things everyone is chasing around."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine by the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Mesa Urbana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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