Friday, January 22, 2016

Ixcateco Grill or Grill Master of the Universe

The Slow and Savory Review

Brandy has had a rough time getting in gear for 2016.  Perhaps it was the long holiday weekend that threw her off.  Perhaps it was two weeks of eating nothing but cookies and fruit cake for breakfast.  Or perhaps it was the sudden deep plunge of the weather into freezing territory.  Whatever it is, Brandy has simply been in a funk for a good majority of the year so far.  "I just feel like... I need a bit of color in my life," she sighed, "Like everything has suddenly gone a bit grey a lifeless.  Well, only one thing for it; when the world starts feeling colorless, its time to get outside and paint the town red!  And when I think red, I think spice.  I think its time for some Mexican inspired brunch."

Journeying into Albany Park, Brandy headed for Ixcateco Grill, where chef and owner Anselmo Ramirez recently began serving a brunch consisting of authentic home style Mexican favorites.  When he was 14, Chef Ramirez saw Rick Bayless on Spanish television and became determined to work for him.  Starting out as a dish washer, he worked his way up through the ranks to Sous Chef.  Over a decade working in the kitchens of Rick Bayless taught Chef Ramirez everything he needed to know about opening up his own restaurant, but success hasn't made him forget his roots.  Dealing in Mexican comfort food, Chef Ramirez combines his skills as a grill master with traditional recipes, all made from scratch, right down to the tortillas his parents help prepare daily.

Brandy was immediately put into a good mood by the bright and colorful interior, featuring original Aztec inspired art.  The atmosphere is was relaxed and comfortable, highlighted with retro mariachi music, which gave one the feeling of being able to have an un-rushed dining experience.  The dark wood and highly polished tables were beautifully uncomplicated amid the vibrant color scheme.

Brandy started off her brunch with what she thought would be a simple cup of coffee.  The coffee at Ixcateco, however, had actually been spiced up a bit with cinnamon and orange peel, which Brandy just adored.  "How can you not love that little bit of extra effort with something a lot of other places don't even think about?" she commented.

A complimentary basket of chips and salsa was quickly delivered to Brandy's table, so she decided to put in an order for the house guacamole as well.  The guacamole had a nice creamy texture with lots of big chunks of avocado.  The flavor was perfectly fresh with just a tiny hint of spice, exactly how Brandy likes her guac.  "There is a tendency for the authentic flavors of Mexican food to be adjusted to an American palate by over using spice," Brandy mused, "But this is as it should be.  A slight bit of heat used to enhance the ingredients, rather than mask them."

Moving on to some more vegetation, Brandy ordered the Ensalada de Betabel, a mix of beets, watercress, and jicama with goat cheese, candied pecans, and an orange scented dressing.  The earthy salad was much like the interior of the restaurant; a vibrant mix of colors and textures that was all at once rich, bright, and exciting.  Brandy especially loved how the crunch of the nuts mixed with the crisp veggies and the creamy goat cheese to make each bite a little different.  "I suppose this isn't what one would normally expect when ordering a salad, but it makes for such a refreshing change of pace!" as Brandy put it.

For the main event, Brandy went for the Chilaquiles Rojos, served with a side of black beans.  The deeply flavored red sauce was incredibly scrumptious, and even though there was plenty of it covering the tortilla chips that made up the main part of the dish, they somehow magically stayed crisp all throughout the eating of the meal.  Brandy also loved that the queso fresco had been used sparingly, insuring it remain an accent of the dish when others might have been tempted to make it a feature.  The beans on the side had a lovely, creamy texture to them that paired wonderfully with the crunchy chilaquiles.

"I do so love a meal that leaves me feeling refreshed and inspired!" Brandy proclaimed as she scraped the last bit of sauce from her plate.  Alongside friendly service and very reasonable prices, it was the care and thought that went into the simple dishes that Brandy really appreciated.  "It's meals like this that make one want to go out into the world and paint a picture or write a story or stitch the greatest quilt anyone's ever seen!  Just goes to show that comfort food from anywhere in the world when done right can do amazing things for the soul."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine at the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

Ixcateco Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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