Friday, April 24, 2015


Tico is a trendy restaurant in the Shaw district that offers a fun menu of cocktails and shareable plates that fuse American cuisine with the Chef/Owner Michael Schlow's travels and love for Spain, Mexico and South America.  Reservations are recommended as it gets packed fast.  Closest Metro is U Street.

Image via Tico website
Keith and I have been so busy lately that we haven't been out to a restaurant in quite a while. Shocking, I know!  So, earlier in the week, Keith made a reservation at Tico and it was a date.  I immediately liked the vibe of the large space with windows open to the street.  The colors and decor were ethnic and modern, with a mix of distressed woods, painted murals, and tiled ceilings.  The noise level was quite high though, and we had to speak loudly in order to hold a conversation.

First up, we ordered a bottle of 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. It was crisp and tart, but a bit light and watery leaving us feel we overpaid for the $43 bottle.  Oh well, on to the food.  We decided to order a variety of plates.  They came out in rapid fire, which also threw us off.  Sometimes service can be too fast, making one feel rushed, and not being able to truly enjoy each dish.  We hurried to finish each before they got cold sitting on the table.

We started off with the Tuna Ceviche with lime, cilantro, and serranos.  It came with two fried tostadas that you just break up into chips, and a bowl of marinated cucumber.  The ceviche was more like tartare, but still had great flavor.  I liked the lime zing - heck, I like anything with lime, so I was happy.  The cucumber was crunchy and had some salty/spicy kick to it.  I think I would have liked it better, if the cucumber was diced up and mixed with the tuna instead.

The Black Risotto Croquettes with saffron aioli, piquillo peppers and calamari immediately caught my eye from the menu.  I'm glad we ordered these.  They were crispy on the outside and a decadent black color on the inside from the squid ink.  The aioli and piquillo peppers provided a great acidic balance to these croquettes.

From the 'a la plancha' side of the menu, we chose the Scallops that came with piquillo pepper salad, and smoked paprika vinaigrette.  The scallops were cut in half, thus providing a smaller portion, yet had great smoky flavor from the grill.  The piquillos were a little redundant from the croquettes dish, but still tasted good.  Again, for $14, I really wish this dish was larger.

Keith chose the Catalan Stew with shrimp, chorizo, lobster, crispy rice and almonds.  I was skeptical at first, and even more skeptical once the dish arrived at the table.  However, don't let looks deceive you.  This dish had the most complex flavor combinations, that really stood out among the other plates, and transported me to Spain.  The seafood stock was sweet and married with the salty sausage.  The textures from the rice and nuts surprisingly did not get soggy from the broth, rather all danced on my tongue.  This was an excellent dish.

We also shared Tico's Mac & Cheese with serrano ham, manchego, and crunchy bread crumbs.  It was a more appropriate serving size to be shared, and provided a tame counterbalance to the spicier dishes.  

Lastly, Keith ordered the Tender Lamb Meatballs with tomato, cumin, pine nuts and ricotta salata shaved on top.  The meatballs also were a larger portion as compared to the other dishes.  The sauce was a tad on the sweet side, but overall a hearty plate.

Even though the food came out fast, once we were finished, there was no pressure to vacate.  Instead of dessert, we opted for another cocktail.  I ordered the Two Birds made with citrus vodka, kumquat, lemon, and a splash of Cava.  It was very light and reminded me of a fancier mimosa.  Keith tried a summery sounding Cool Hand Luke made with American Gin, cucumber, lemon, mint syrup, and pink peppercorn along half the rim.  The cucumber juice was very prominent.  I could see one sipping this drink on a balmy summer's evening in DC.

Our server was happy to oblige and let us linger at the table a bit longer to finish off our drinks and enjoy a little more conversation.  Overall, I enjoyed the food at Tico - but besides the Catalan Stew, nothing was a huge standout.  The portions were on the smaller side, so ordering 6 dishes for two people worked out fine.  The atmosphere was boisterous and fun, and a great place to spend our Friday evening.  Be prepared for a steep check though, as the multiple dishes and cocktails add up fast.

Total Rating: 3.85
Food: 4, Price: 3, Service: 4, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Tuna Ceviche
with lime, cilantro, & serranos

Black Risotto Croquettes
with saffron aioli, piquillo peppers & calamari

with piquillo pepper salad, and smoked paprika vinaigrette

Catalan Stew
with shrimp, chorizo, lobster, crispy rice & almonds

Tico's Mac & Cheese
with serrano ham, manchego, & crunchy bread crumbs

Plus Keith ate:
Tender Lamb Meatballs
with tomato, cumin, pine nuts & ricotta salata

Tico on Urbanspoon

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