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The Tip

A bright blend of Spanish flavors

Laura Sotomayor (left) prepares an appetizer at Tico, opened by chef Michael Schlow. Laura Sotomayor (left) prepares an appetizer at Tico, opened by chef Michael Schlow. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Devra First
Globe Staff / March 4, 2011

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TICO

222 Berkeley St., Boston

617-351-0400

In late 1998, chef Michael Schlow opened Radius, showcasing French-inspired fine dining. It was a perfect cap to that decade, which ended in a burst of caviar and foie gras. In the years since, restaurants and diners have gravitated toward less-formal experiences, centered on fun. Inspiration is as likely to come from Asia or South America as it is Europe. Tico is an emblem of these changes — the kind of restaurant ambitious, well-known chefs like Schlow are opening now.

Located in the former Cottonwood Cafe space, Tico is influenced by the dishes of Spain, Mexico, and South America. Its menu includes small plates; meats cooked a la plancha, or on a flattop grill; and the kind of nuevo tacos that are invading the city in force. (We’ve seen the recent openings of Papagayo and Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar, new chef Darren Carbone has arrived at La Verdad, and Mija Cantina & Tequila Bar and Temazcal Tequila Cantina are coming soon. Boston’s going to have one wicked hangover.) Between the tortillas at Tico, you’ll find the likes of edamame, tomatillo, and cucumber; crispy fried chicken with fennel slaw; and lobster and avocado. Lobster tacos are the new lobster macaroni and cheese.

Almost everything here crosses borders. Grilled quail comes with mango and the Peruvian chili aji amarillo. There’s shrimp toast with avocado, pickled jalapenos, and lime, and mushroom and cheese quesadillas with black truffle salsa. A main course of red snapper is served with Brussels sprouts and bacon salad, celery root puree, and red chilies. And then there are several prime steaks and a bacon cheeseburger with fries, just because. (At Radius’s bar, the burger has become a major draw; it’s a good idea to include one at Tico for lunchtime and after-work regulars.)

Tico doesn’t take itself too seriously. The jollity is apparent in its Tequila Club — drink 88 tequilas in any eight-month period and you’ll get such goodies as a tequila glass with your name on it and access to exclusive tastings. The restaurant is full of people and energy and buzz. If you’re looking for big, bright flavors and big, bright atmosphere, they’re here. If you’re looking for a quiet, formal dining experience, you’re more likely to find it back in 1998.

Devra First can be reached at dfirst@globe.com.

Ratings

  • 4 Stars Extraordinary
  • 3 Stars Excellent
  • 2 Stars Good
  • 1 Star Fair
  • No Stars Poor