There are so many Mexican/Latin-styled restaurants in and around Logan Circle, any new kids on the block need to do something different to get noticed.
Tico (1926 14th St. N.W.) is a brand new restaurant from renowned Boston-based Chef Michael Schlow, who has become one of America’s most respected and influential chefs, having mastered a variety of global cuisines. Tico, however, is pretty straightforward. Schlow wants to simply serve excellent food in a fun environment that his patrons can enjoy.
I remember first hearing about the wonders of Chef Schlow when I was living in Boston years ago. It seemed like everyone was talking about the phenomenal dishes that this young chef was preparing and delivering to the patrons. I never got a chance to eat at one of his restaurants when I was there, but he was definitely on my radar. He’s appeared on “Top Chef Masters” and the James Beard Foundation named him best chef in the Northeast. When the rumors first started about a Schlow restaurant coming to D.C., I began searching for all that could be found and eventually it was revealed that Tico would be opening in the new Louis on XIV. I could barely contain my excitement. I could not wait to see what Schlow was planning to deliver.
Schlow brought with him his head chef from Tico Boston, George Rodrigues, to help open the D.C. location. Rodrigues began his culinary career in Brazil and later spent time in Chicago where he served as sous chef to Chef Jose Garces at Mercat a la Planxa, discovering there his love for Latin flavors.
The build out at Tico creates a very cool, open and laid-back space that offers excellent people-watching opportunities. No matter where you’re sitting, you can pretty much see from the kitchen to the street outside the wide open folding glass doors, which overlook 14th Street. The space has a rich rustic feel even though it was just created and none of the walls, not even the weathered brick, are original. As I gazed out the front of the space while enjoying my food, I was nearly transported to bustling, history-filled Boylston Street in Boston.
The menu at Tico is inspired by Schlow’s visits to Mexico, South America and Spain and each dish reflects these influences in a slightly different manner. The dishes at Tico are meant to be simple and sexy, both excellent descriptors of the small plates served. We ordered several dishes each and sipped Hibiscus margarits as we waited.
The first dish to arrive was the exquisite scallop ceviche. What seemed like a simple dish at first glance turned out to be a multidimensional masterpiece. The cold scallops balanced with the pico and topped off with a creamy avocado dressing all came together in perfect harmony as they hit the tongue. The meal was clearly off to a fantastic start.
The local crab tostadas were the next to arrive and the saltiness of the tostada and freshness of the local crab melded together beautifully. Dish after dish arrived and each provided a new taste of Tico with a masterful balance of flavors and textures.
The chicarones with white mole powder are not the pork rinds you’re used to. They were evenly prepared, crispy and flavorful throughout. The peas dish with bacon was a creative savory take on one of my least favorite vegetables. The sweet corn dish was surprisingly one of my favorite dishes of the evening as the rich bacon and butter did not overwhelm the light sweet kernels and the jalapeno slices added just the right amount of heat.
The final victory arrived at the table disguised as mac and cheese, but was much more. Serrano ham, manchego cheese and crispy breadcrumbs accompanied delicate noodles and all it took was one forkful and I was in love.
Tico was everything I was hoping for from the moment I heard it would be opening. The night I went, the staff provided excellent non-intrusive service in a comfortable environment. Each dish, whether it seemed simple or complex, provided something unexpected. Each had a well developed, balanced and divine flavor profile. Tico is yet another standout in the 14th Street corridor of restaurants and I’m hoping that Schlow soon brings another concept to D.C.