Introducing Tico, Back Bays newest venue serving Latin American inspired food from renowned Boston chef, Michael Schlow. Already a fan of his French American cuisine at Radius and with two other restaurants (Via Matta, Alta Strada) under his belt, the opening of Tico garnered much buzz and curiosity.Would it live up to the hype?! Justin, Megan, Michelle, Tania, Meghan and I decided to find out. On Tuesday evening I arrived at the new space located at 222 Berkeley Street excited to meet the anticipation head on. I arrived first and grabbed a corner window seat in the dark tequila bar where a waiter approached me right away. Tico boasts a full wine and tequila list, the beer and cocktail menus are still non existent in printed form. However, a plethora of bottled and draft beer and margarita options are available. I began the evening with a draft Negra Modela ($6). A robust Mexican lager, it hit the spot. We settled into our spacious table for six in a window front alcove over looking St James Street and decided on eight small plates and three taco dishes. Waters were refilled promptly throughout the evening and service was pleasant and attentive for the duration.
Once I finished my Nerga Modela I ordered a Margarita ($10) deciding that I should honor National Margarita Day (how fitting!) while I had the chance. This one definitely honored the day, it was strong and brightly flavored despite the fact that I couldn't tell you what kind of tequila it was crafted with. In addition to the standard lime, Tico offers Blood Orange and Pomegranate Margaritas that were well received by my dining companions. The dishes were delivered promptly to start and well paced throughout, lending aesthetically pleasing presentations with food that was for the most part, well flavored and incredibly tasty. Crispy Fried Manchego Cheese ($9) was a warm gooey meets crispy bite served with an inventive spicy pomegranate honey sauce. A play on a classic mozarella stick, this small plate was an instant winner. A place in my heart remains for any which way a restaurant decides to prepare a dish of Brussels Sprouts ($8). Tico prepares them with bacon, kumquats, mint and jalapenos and as predicted, I adored this combination.
The first batch of tacos up were the Crunchy Fried Chicken ($10) with fennel slaw & spicy buttermilk dressing.These were an excellent choice, the chicken is indeed perfectly crunchy and the generous toppings add layers of flavor.
The Shrimp Toast ($8) with avocado, pickled jalapeños and lime were intriguing as described, the plate boasting attractive looking rectangles of crispy fried shrimp.
Greasy little morsels they were! As eye-catching as they sat, glistening with oil, the greasiness ended up overpowering the minimal dollop of avocado and pickled jalapeño. Perhaps adding more of the toppings would elevate the taste.The Crispy Sweetbreads ($8) tasted rather bland, although I have to admit this is my first time trying them. The masa harissa, endive, blood orange and hazelnuts somehow weren't enough to boost the sweatbreads to a memorable status in my eyes. All was forgiven when the Creamy Gigante Beans ($10) with chorizo and green onion graced the tables presence. Also new to me, but far more exciting and flavorful than the Sweatbreads were these tender smooth disks, flatter and larger than your average white bean - it's a Gigante Bean!Up next were the Crispy Fish Tacos ($9) served with pickled onions & red jalapeno. They were good, but not great. Standard, but no wow factor. That spicy buttermilk dressing on the chicken taco is a tough act to follow. Wow factor came in the next dish of Octopus ($11) with yellow peppers, citrus, and Aleppo pepper. By now you all know my love of octopus, this dish had an energetic presentation with bright flavors to match. The Snap Peas ($8) with orange zest, Tabasco butter and “crunchies” brought a good amount of heat. The pea pods themselves were crisp and fresh. This is definitely a standout plate. Close up, oh snap!The Spicy Shrimp ($12) rounded out the taco plates in fine form topped with bacon and avocado. Keeping it simple, these tacos succeed. The final small plate was one amazing dish of "Creamed" Corn ($8) with Bacon, Chiles and Thai Basil A lingering heat from the chiles, marking this as the spiciest dish of the evening left the palate extremely satisfied. But we weren't content to stop there. That's right, Tico is also doing desserts. And doing them well. We went ahead and ordered the first three on the menu, beginning with a decadent and rich Super Delicious Chocolate Tart ($10). With tres leche ice cream, this tart was in fact super delicious. Can't argue with their description on that one. A refreshing bite of citrus fruit custard topped with whipped cream and sweet sugary strawberries was the Lemon Sabayon Tart ($10). My favorite, though, was the Chocolate Gelato Peanut Butter Mousse-Over The Top-Caramelized Banana Split ($10) with Mexican chocolate sauce and crushed peanuts. Chocolate and Peanut butter always wins! That combination with the caramelized banana was what took it over the top for me.
Tico's breakout on the culinary scene brings enthusiasts something new. It's not a traditional tapas bar, it's not your standard mexican fare, it's American food with Latin and Spanish influenced flavor profiles showcased in beautiful plates of food. My hats off to the chef.