Fusion cooking has been around long enough that the common middle-class diner can now afford to try a master chef's culinary crossover experience. However, sometimes the sheer ludicrous nature of some of these style pairings holds appeal only to the idle rich who wish to flaunt that they can indulge in such things. Iliamar Isaac and Carlos Gaytan, however, are aiming for the baby-strollers over Benzies at their new Chicago Avenue location, and the concept (French and Mexican fusion) is a fairly safe bet for broad appeal.
The menu does not belie the simple, trimless decorations of the restaurant; almost every dish simply carries the name of its main ingredient, and leaves the description on the page (perhaps to save you from tripping over two languages while ordering). While many of the menu items hold fast to one style or another (a Croque Monsieur on the lunch menu seemed about as French as one could imagine), some items mix both styles into the same dish. For example, the trio of sopes offers three doughy caps of escargots and chimichurri butter; shrimp provencal with avocado mousse; and sweet plantains, young coconut and xico mole for $9.
The entrees have a little more room to mix the two styles, and allow at least a sauce from column A to dance with a side or entree from column B, such as the creamy sweet saffron corn porridge and chipotle couli complimenting each other and (somewhat) covering the fishy aftertaste from the salmon ($19).
But even when the cuisine hits its flavor notes in tandem, one might be wary of returning; the entree prices of $17-$25 aren't exactly for the T-shirt-and-jeans crowd. Mexique might have to put off its dreams of being a hangout spot until the neighborhood starts to attract some deeper pockets willing to shell out more regularly for these experiments.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Dan Morgridge