Originally Posted by Tomasso
Rick's restaurants are great and he works them regularly. Some people will be disappointed with authentic Mexican cuisine and a smallish serving size at a relatively high price-point. But he runs a scratch kitchen using the best product available, if it were French cuisine nobody would bitch.
Since I made the original comments of controversy, I'll try to explain them more. It seems both you and mano both know/knew Mr. Bayless personally; I don't, and my post was not criticizing him personally, just the experiences I had at the restaurants operated by him. He probably was not working there on the nights I came, and maybe that was a source of the problem. I'm well aware that fancy places don't cater to the Homer Simpson "all you can eat" crowd, but as someone who wrestled 103 lb in high school, I'd hardly think my basic needs for sustenance are somehow out of whack with reality. But each of the two times I went there I had an appetizer and an entree (I think I may have had a soup at Frontera too), and after spending about $40-50 on food alone each time, I would find my stomach growling in the next hour or two. The friends I ate with at Frontera shared this sentiment, while after my Topalobampo visit I ended up having to get a second dinner later that night because I was so unsatisified. I've been to a reasonable share of fine dining restaurants, and none of them ever had any problems with stinginess of portions to that degree. There's a difference between "smaller serving size" and "overpriced ripoff," and the Bayless places fell squarely into the latter. And it's not like you can say the restaurants are like taco stands where you get a bunch of small orders or like one of those places with course menus, there was a clear deliniation between appetizers and entrees. Second, I don't know if that were implied in my case, but if so I object to the notion that I have no clue what authentic Mexican food is and made a judgement off of that. I'm not Mexican, but having visited Mexico and lived nearly all my life in the two U.S. states with the most sizable Mexican/Latin populations has probably helped me figure out the difference between Americanized Mexican food and actual Mexican food. I wasn't disappointed because I didn't get a gloopy enchilada with yellow cheese or a heaping burrito in a flour tortilla (I think the tacos al carbon my friends got used flour tortillas... so much for authentic Mexican), I was disappointed because the majority of dishes I ordered were just bland and dull. I could do better driving a few minutes from my house and getting some chicken mole or a birria taco at a dive tacqueria for about 1/10th the price. Anyway, in fairness to Mr. Bayless, who I'm sure is a nice guy and a cooking expert himself, this trend is usually problematic with celebrity chef restaurants. I don't frequent those much, but of my friends who have dined at places linked to Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, etc., the conclusion has typically been that the food is mediocre for the money and that the restaurant is a tourist trap. I would say that given the high prices, bland food, and the fact that the bulk of the crowd consisited of trendy late 20's/early 30's yuppies who had probably found about the restaurants from the hype in some street beat magazine or tourist guide, Frontera/Topalabampo seems to emphasize style over substance. Perhaps I'd go back one of the next times I go to Chicago, but only on the condition that I'm not the one paying.