This jewel in Rick Bayless' crown welcomes a rush of serious diners for original south-of-the-border food with an upscale twist. While you have to walk through cacophonous Frontera Grill, the relative serenity that greets you is worth the detour. This bright and cheery dining room with gold curtains and colorful artwork feels worlds away from the fiesta up front.
The regional Mexican cuisine boasts a panoply of flavors, colors and textures with a finesse that is truly impressive. Lunches are laid-back and may include a quartet of quesadillas stuffed with chorizo, black beans and queso fresco. These are made even more luscious when served with a Veracruz salsa negra. Seasonal or classic tasting menus at dinner demonstrate the kitchen's haute cuisine approach to authentic items and ingredients. Dishes are also sauced perfectly: the uni-infused spicy yellow mole poured over a single seared scallop is just one example.
Cocktails are noteworthy (margaritas, naturally), with tequila and mezcal flights, plus a concise wine list featuring Mexican labels. Teetotalers get equal attention thanks to sweet and tangy agua frescas splashed with tropical juices that are among the best in town.