Moto vs. Schwa
Although I prefer Moto, I love Schwa too.
Why I prefer Moto: It is a little more avant-garde -- the edible menus, filled plastic test tubes, fish cooking inside a box on your table. There's just something about it that I can't experience elsewhere . . . or at least almost anyplace else.
It's also a little bit more high end in terms of the decor itself. When I walk in, I feel like I'm in a very upscale establishment. Service is also a little bit more polished. But that's because of the size of the staff and the fact that Moto now has a wait staff (unlike Schwa). Best of all, I love the food.
What I like about Schwa: It's avant-garde, just not like Moto. But what else is? The food is excellent and I love the fact that it's byo. That really reduces the bill and I find it kind of fun to check out the menu in advance and try to pair wines with the menu. But the dining room is more casual than Moto's and the service is fine, nothing special -- afterall, you're being served by the kitchen staff. Don't let that scare you much though as these guys are very intense and excited about what they do.
In my opinion, you can't go wrong either place and it just depends on what you are looking for, taking into account the above information.
I haven't yet been to Schwa- but was at Moto last week. The service was impeccible and the food was really good. The menu is served on a plate which after you read- you can eat! We had the 5 course and everything was really good. One of the courses was served on battleship type game boards- and the fourth course is a strawberry sorbet served with shortbread and fruit- except it is all constructed as to look like a Chicago hotdog. Quite clever!
I also really liked the ambiance and decor. I highly recommend it!
Moto is the most avant-garde of Chicago's "molecular gastronomy" restaurants (lasers, nitrogen, that kind of stuff). Schwa doesn't quite go that far, although it is still very innovative. Personally, I prefer Schwa although I liked Moto a lot more than I thought I would. If I had a choice, I would pick Schwa but if you can't get a reservation I wouldn't be disappointed in Moto.
Both feature "molecular gastronomy" and delicious, unusual food.
Schwa is generally less expensive, particularly if you enjoy fine wine, because of their BYOB policy.
Schwa is more difficult to get reservations; if your dinner is very soon, you may not be able to get a reservation on the date you want.
I literally just came back from eating at Schwa. I have been to Alinea but not Moto. From reading the other replies it sounds like it depends on what u r looking for. the best way I can describe Schwa, it that they use post modern, if u want to call it molecular gastronomy techniques but the food is delicious!!!! They do a lot of "wow" things but they are more subtle, like if u understand cooking techiniques, then u understand why what they cooked for u is so hard to do. But they don't have any "wow" and I don't mean gimmicky but sort of....but I will go back to Schwa soon because the food was superb and the room is really intimate and the chefs are really into their food, technique and flavor.......For me the wow factor was cooking a quail's egg perfectly encapusled in a light, tender ravioli in a buttery broth with parmesan......Or combining cauliflower with chocolate and making it seem like they have been a perfect combination for years..... Or it is the "in your face" alternative rock playing compared to the usual fine dining fare, And, this is showing my age, but I went to the original Daniel in New York when the room was a lot more intimate. Schwa feels the same way. I know one of the sous chefs at Moto so it is stupid I have not gone yet. All I can do is compare Schwa to Alinea, what Chef Atchatz does is remarkable but for the price?????? So hopefully this comment helps with your decision......