Sunday Brunch at TICO Restaurant DC
PHOTO: Birthday drinks at TICO Restaurant DC (c) Sery Kim
In three very short years, our nation's capital favorite restaurant hot spot 14th Street has cemented itself as the center of D.C.'s rapid evolution from the ugly stepsister of food to Cinderella. A multitude of selections, opportune real estate storefronts and a crushing array of personalities has drawn restauranteurs from all over the country including Boston resident and James Beard Award winning chef Michael Schlow. His TICO Restaurant DC is the second TICO, the first being in Boston on 222 Berkeley Street, though hardly an imitation game of the first.
This Latin-American restaurant steers far clear of any form of traditional Latin American dishes during the most popular mealtime in D.C.: brunch. In fact, it was almost disappointing not to be confronted with Huervos Rancheros and merely be stuck with a Chipotle style breakfast burrito option, which is rather ubiqutiously boring in every way. However, the food itself and the preparation of both banana-based dishes I tried, the banana walnut bread and the magnificent mound of Caramelized Banana Pancakes with Crunch Hazelnuts, hardly made me blink with the lack of cultural options and made me just wonder, "Exactly how many hours of hot yoga am I going to have to do after I eat these worthwhile 10,000 calories?!?"
PHOTO: Caramelized Banana Pancakes with Crunchy Hazelnuts at TICO Restaurant DC (c) Sery Kim
I could have sworn I was full after the first bite of the caramelized banana pancakes but then, as if by magnetic force, my fork pulled again and again into the pancakes until nearly half of it disappeared into my very full, yet very happy mind. It's torturous for any chef to do this to a woman, but certainly an added plus for those seeking a hearty brunch option on 14th Street.
Of course, there were other items on the brunch menu worth noting. The Duck Confit and Green Chile Hash with Poached Eggs and Chipotle Hollandaise was a dense, deeply rich dish with a multitude of differing yet not competing flavors. Too much food for any one person to consume in total yet definitely the most solid base for any of the TICO brunch cocktails.
PHOTO: Duck Confit and Green Chile Hash with Poached Eggs and Chipotle Hollandaise at TICO Restaurant DC (c) Sery Kim
Another solid option would be the fatty Crunchy and Spicy Fried Chicken with Fennel Cole Slaw and Fries. I much prefer the fried chicken at Seasonal Pantry, but if Saturday's night's festivities mandates a deep fried option then this is the dish to order. The fried chicken has a nice batter with just enough heat in the spice not to require a gallon of water. Being from the South, I always seek more batter -- one which doesn't fall apart at first touch -- and this was the missing differential from Seasonal Pantry's spectacular fried chicken.
PHOTO: Crunchy and Spicy Fried Chicken with Fennel Cole Slaw and Fries at TICO Restaurant DC (c) Sery Kim
Even after all this food, be sure not to forget dessert. Though I swore I was too full to eat another bite, I managed to demolish the deceptively simple Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. The dish presents itself in no fancy or extraordinary way. If you looked at it at a grocery store, you would easily walk by and instead pick up something more unique and spectacular but this would be a mistake because this dessert's even presentation made for a gentle conclusion to an otherwise burstingly heavy brunch.
Certainly TICO Restaurant DC presents a good brunch for those who are willing to face a 45 minute misadventure to find parking on 14th Street. Or just walk ... with the calories you will consume, a nice 10 mile walk will do just the trick.