Deal or No Deal: Wine Dine With Us at Tico

Glenn: I have been spending too much time across the river in Cambridge and Somerville. I’d lost touch with the realities of dining in the Back Bay. My evening at Tico, though, got me up to speed. The food – what there was of it – was fine – great, fresh, lively flavors. However, we had nothing that was truly adventurous, such as sweetbread, tongue or oxtail tacos.  My thought – don’t scare the tourists.

Mac and cheese with serrano ham amd bread crumbs

My problem with the evening was the amount of food we received and the service. We each had a Living Social coupon that entitled each of us to $100 worth of food for which we had each paid $50. That was the deal. Since there is a section of the menu entitled “Tastings” and an option therein for “The Full-On Tico Experience”  for $85 per person, we didn’t think there would be a problem. Yet there was.

Creamy whipped queso fresco with piperade and crostini

When we totaled up the amount of food we received, we arrived at a figure of approximately $100 – far from the $300 worth of food we thought we’d enjoy that evening and not even approaching the $150  we’d actually paid for the coupons. Several times we were assured we were receiving the Chef’s special tasting menu. In the end, there was nothing special about it. We were served one entree for three diners. Truly, that says it all – no deal.

Lamb taco

Eleni: I liked the concept of a “chef” chosen selection based on levels of hunger, but I think it would be helpful to have some sort of guide: this offering includes 2 items from this section, 4 from that, 3 entrees, and one dessert. Without that, it was difficult to pace oneself and I found myself unwilling to let them clear things from the table–particularly the cabbage salad that led the charge from the kitchen.

Shredded cabbage and vegetable Salad with salsa verde and almonds

I was confused by the decor and the circus-like Tico font but I did enjoy the photography. I’ve never eaten at such a touristy “fine dining” venue. It was fascinating to watch people walk by and intriguing to see people end up there because they were in town and didn’t know where else to go.

Grilled skirt steak with zucchini and pickled red onions

Katrin: Yes, lots of folks heading to the Red Sox-Yankees game seemed to have stumbled upon the restaurant that evening.

Chocolate gelato with peanut butter mousse

Glenn: As for the service, there were several times when my water glass was empty for long periods of time. Aside from this apocryphal observation, the service is of the young, pretty, overly scripted and insincere sort. Perhaps this works for the tourists but not for me. The servers need a few lessons at the “Esti Parsons’ School of Empathic Service.” But really, I don’t see that happening.

Katrin: I think the word Glenn is looking for is vacuous, which really describes the staff.

Katrin: On the plus side, the wine by the bottle list is excellent.  The selection is dominated by New World, Spanish, and Portuguese wines, which complement Tico’s menu well. It is the best Argentine list this side of Arlington’s Tango Restaurant.  But the markups are unbelievable.  Quivira Fig Tree Sauvignon Blanc is on the menu for $50 (retail is $16 or less); Altos Las Hormigas Malbec is priced at $38 (retail is about $10); and Evodia Garnacha is also $38 (retail is $10 or less).  An exception to the inflated prices was Renacer Enamore, a favorite of mine, at $44, and with retail prices in Massachusetts ranging from $30-$35, it was rather reasonably priced.

Glenn: As for beer and ale, the on tap draft selection is weak, only three brews. The bottled selection is large but I can drink those at home!

Eleni: I was excited to see Anchor Steam on tap and poured in less than pint sized glasses but confused as to why we didn’t see more Mexican beer.

Glenn: In the end, we had these thoughts. Michael Schlow may have asked himself “Why not open a south of the border themed restaurant?”  But the better question may have been “Why?” And why does everyone I spoke to about Tico, love it so much, including my physician and her foodie blogger husband, two of the most discriminating diners I know? And finally, how quickly can I unsubscribe from the Living Social mailing list!?!

Tico on Urbanspoon

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3 Responses to “Deal or No Deal: Wine Dine With Us at Tico”

  1. August 24, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    Great review and balanced.   I think you’ll find that the folks who generally love places like Tico are from the suburbs coming into the Big City for their semi-annual exposure to something beyond TGI Fridays.   They are conditioned to believe that city restaurants should be super-expensive, small portions, and inflated wine prices and would probably be disappointed were it not the case.    Meanwhile, us city dwellers know where to eat well since we have to do it every day.  I’m glad that places like Tico exist because I’d hate to have to fight for a table at the many GOOD places we have.

    • Glenn
      August 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

      Enjoyed your insight very much. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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