NUNN IN THE OVEN
Michelin Star-Rated Chef Carlos Gaytan goes back to his roots with Tzuco
Sun. March 19, 2023 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn
Tzuco, 720 North States Street, is an upscale restaurant spotlighting Mexican dishes from the esteemed chef Carlos Gaytan.
The name of the place originates from Huitzuco, a small town in Guerrero, Mexico where Gaytan was born in 1970. He started from the bottom and now he is here after working his way up through the ranks. He begin his career as a dishwasher at the Sheraton North Shore Hotel to become the first Mexican chef to receive a Michelin Star both in 2013 and 2014. He opened his own place Mexique in 2011 and competed on Bravo's Top Chef season 11 in 2013.
His latest endeavor Tzuco is already internationally acclaimed after debuting in 2020. It was a semifinalist in the James Beard Foundation Awards' Best New Restaurant category during the first year. The establishment was shut down for the pandemic but how now risen from the ashes like a phoenix in a big way.
A halo of flowers greets guests as they enter the establishment on the corner of Superior and State Street. The decor is both rustic and modern sticking to a brown color palette. Don't let the dead sagebrush fool you, this hot spot is alive and well while bustling with activity.
An open kitchen is located across from the diners and the bar displaying complete transparency to anyone around to inspect the premises. Onlookers can see them prepare a menu curated with unusual ingredients from around the world honing in on Gaytan's history.
Guacamole has become a staple in Mexican food and Tzuco's is thick, spicy and topped with Hutzuco cheese.
The Pulpo Enamorado is a must-try item and something to fall in love with just like the title says. A hefty portion of guajillo roasted octopus kicks off the plate with salsa macha and a chopped potato salad added to the side of the appetizer.
Wash that down with a glass of sangria or a margarita that is lit to bring out the mezcal tequila flavor. Head over to the segundo or main offerings after the cocktail break.
The Cochinita Pibil is a standard in the Guerrero community and Tzuco's meaty pork shank simply must be experienced with just the right amount of habanero salsa and black bean puree.
Another standout piece is the Pescado a la Veracruzana which is a whole branzino fish served on a bed of green rice with tostones and tortillas. Be careful of those whisker bones while enjoying this delicious white fish dish.
Craving for a dessert that is not only unique but unforgettable also? The Guanabana/Aguacate is the one to seek out. The ingredients are decadent with tapioca infused with citrus, guanabana sorbet and an avocado foam mousse. Guanabana or soursop is a fruit from South America that can be used medicinally. It definitely healed our hunger!
The Maiz y Azafran with sweet cornbread served with saffron ice cream and caramel popcorn was unusual and didn't work, but the Arroz con Leche got us back on track thanks to a combination of rice pudding and homemade pink peppercorn ice cream. The Rice Krispies mixed in made this dessert pop!
Gaytan and his team have a well-executed vision that comes to life in River North at Tzuco. In March, Gaytan focuses on his home state of Guerrero with his Back to My Roots series covering cuisine from different places in Mexico every month.
Click over to tzuco.com and plan a visit take your tastebuds south of the border!