Él Frida Room’s seven-course tasting menu is a feast for the senses worthy of this Chicago restaurant’s legendary namesake. Traditional ingredients from the homeland of la artista Frida Kahlo are reimagined into a modern, lush celebration of Mexican cuisine by the talented Chef Cristian Orozco and owner Angel Diaz.
Orozco brings years of experience working the line at top Chicago restaurants, including the heralded Tzuco, from Carlos Gaytán, the first Mexican chef in the U.S. to receive a Michelin star. He is aided and supported by Frida Room proprietor Angel Diaz, who is from Mexico City and taps his own family recipes as inspiration for the imaginative menu at his charming restaurant in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, Frida Room offers its special Frida de Noche tasting menus, where diners are invited to experience Chef Cris’ sophisticated interpretation of mostly Mexican, as well as Guatemalan flavors. Each of the seven dishes are presented like a work of art: a swirl of dry ice, bold food pairings, inventive platings, and edible flowers offer color, line, texture and drama. Chef Cris explains he is proud to source his ingredients sustainably and offer gluten-free options.
We had heard a lot about Frida Room, so we checked it out a couple weeks ago. (We live for Latino homecooking at Familia Kitchen, but por supuesto, every once in a while, we like to keep the cocina clean and eat out at a Latino restaurant.) Wise move on our part: Frida Room’s Frida de Noche modern Mexican is a winner. Every course is memorably flavorful, sensual and joyous. You can taste the love that Chef Cris puts into each plate.
We’re already craving so many of the dishes listed in Frida Room’s just-released fall tasting menu, including: squash soup with truffle honey and pumpkin seeds; duck leg confit in mole; blue masa lobster tacos with pickled watermelon radish; and Waygu in Abuelita-chocolate sauce. For the sweet finale, we are drawn to a postre Chef Cris has named Chef’s Childhood, which includes Guatemalan quesadilla, banana ice cream and black sesame seeds.
The Recipe Chef Cris Uses To Cook His Way Home
As we always like to do at Familia Kitchen, we asked Chef Cris about a favorite family recipe and his childhood food inspirations. Lucky us: he emailed us his chirmol salsa, below. This beloved Guatemalan staple is made with dry-roasted tomatoes, cilantro, mint, onion, lime juice and a touch of chile. In Guatemala, Chef Cris explained, chirmol is spooned over all the delicioso things that come off the churrasco grill. One taste of chirmol reminds him of home and his mother’s kitchen, he told us. Here are highlights from our conversation with Chef Cris.
Q: What is a favorite family dish you remember loving when you were growing up?
Chef Cris: When I was a child, we often grilled a traditional churrasco on Saturdays. Also, we made eggs many mornings. I remember that we always had chirmol to accompany the dishes.
Q: Is chirmol an everyday favorite salsa or one served on special occasions?
Chef Cris: Chirmol is for those days when we invite friends and family over to our home. It’s for a feast filled with umami flavors, when we gather with much to talk about and much to share at the table.
Q: How is your chirmol family recipe different from other versions you have tasted?
Chef Cris: I think mine is different because my mother always cooks with love.
Q: Who in your family inspired you to cook?
Chef Cris: The person who taught me so much and my favorite chef is my mom. I still call her to ask for cooking tips.
Q: How does this chirmol family recipe influence the menu you are offering at Frida Room today?
Chef Cris: My dishes for Frida Room’s Frida at Night tasting menus are based on memories of my life and childhood. Each plate has a story to tell, and we then give it an international flair with inspiring flavors and ingredients from other cultures.
Chef Cris Orozco personally invites you to both make his family recipe for chirmol and to experience his new, fall season seven-course Frida Room menu. To make a reservation, go to opentable.com or Instagram: @fridadenoche.