Tamayo Keeps the Small Plates Coming With Bottomless Brunch

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Nearly one year ago, I wrote my first column on the gluttonous experience that is bottomless brunch at the Asian-fusion hotspot Zengo. Since I’ve just about digested that meal, it seemed only fitting to follow up by checking out Richard Sandoval’s other gem, the sensuous, Latin-infused Tamayo, in Larimer Square. Offering the same deal — $35 for all you can eat and drink, or $25 for the designated-driver version — Tamayo's brunch is a feast of modern Mexican small plates that lasts until you throw in the towel or when two hours are up, whichever comes first.

If you’re interested in offsetting the exponential calorie intake you’re about to consume, Tamayo just launched a Bike 2 Brunch series the first Saturday of every month in the summer. Just for participating, you’ll get a free guacamole for the table and a 20% discount at the Timbuk2 store across the street (plus, you know, the health benefits).

The 411
Weekend brunch at Tamayo is available from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The entire table must participate in the bottomless deal; otherwise, plates are available a la carte for $6 to $10 and cocktails for $5 and $6. The room's layout is long and narrow, lending itself mostly to two- and four-tops on either side of the long galley where waiters and waitresses sashay down the runway with overflowing trays for all to see — a preview of what you may want to order next. With walls adorned in deep-red mosaics and premium tequilas, there’s no question that you’re in for a fiesta. We were pleased to find no wait at prime Sunday brunching hour, but, as at Zengo, service can be a little spotty, so order as much as possible whenever you can grab someone’s attention. Plates come slowly at first, and then the table gets inundated with dishes — a less syncopated rhythm to the progression than we would have liked.
If you’re participating in the bottomless cocktails (and, really, why wouldn’t you?), you can mix and match margaritas, guava and mango mimosas, bloody beers, and Bloody Marys and their Mexican cousins Bloody Marias, the latter made with tequila and sangrita for a unique south-of-the-border brunch twist that’s ever so salty.
The Food
The mahi-mahi ceviche is a light starter that’s sweet, spicy and small enough to get you excited, but not filling enough to keep you from ordering ten more plates. Both tacos are must-tries: The smoked brisket was devoured in two bites flat, but it paled in comparison to the shredded chicken tinga, which was Fabulous with a capital F — moist, succulent, and bursting with the crispness of fresh pico de gallo. The thick tamal stuffed with shredded chicken was also a hit, tasting like the love child of an enchilada and a tamale, decorated with a rich chipotle cream that had been drizzled in artistic swirls to offset a perfectly ripe sliced-avocado garnish. Although a more traditional brunch option, the messy huevos rancheros were a bigger, more substantive plate; I enjoyed mixing the runny eggs with the red ranchera sauce, yet another variation of tomato salsa on offer.
The wild-mushroom enchilada was another table favorite, if not solely for its beautiful presentation, thanks to a bold green poblano-chile sauce. Stuffed with huitlacoche, which is technically a naturally growing corn fungus that just so happens to be a Mexican delicacy (try it before you judge: Mushrooms are fungi too), it’s about as authentic a Mexican ingredient as you’ll find in the continental U.S. The cazuelas were also interesting, prepared in traditional black clay pots. The stewy scrambled eggs were a bit too liquid for our tastes, but the preparation and ingredients added to the swirl of flavors at our table. 

If you’re trying to decide what to pass on for fear of needing to loosen your belt buckle, skip the squash blossom, the very first thing that caught my eye. I was disappointed that the delicate flower came inside a flaky but overwhelming empanada that was almost glued to the plate thanks to a mix of three heavy salsas. The filet mignon flatbread was also a letdown, with overcooked meat eerily reminiscent of a steak gordita from Taco Bell – never a happy memory. The mahi-mahi a la talla was lost among the other plates: While we enjoyed the adobo marinade, it was difficult to eat — buried in slaw and served on a sliced tomato. The enfrijoladas made their way to our table by mistake (but who are we to turn down food?); the dish was essentially an egg enchilada that looked completely unappetizing due to a black-bean puree so thick we couldn’t cut through it.
It’s a shame that Tamayo's guacamoles aren’t part of the bottomless deal, since they come in variations featuring three of my favorite things: bacon, tuna tartare and spicy crab. That was probably for the best, though, as it ensured that we save some room for the pan dulce, a shining star completely worth savoring last. Described as Mexican French toast, thick challah appeared in a flourish, coated in cajeta (caramelized sweet goat milk), Nutella, bananas and crème fraîche, with a chipotle kick that lingered ever so slightly to remind you of everything that’s right about Mexican cuisine. Brunchees of Denver, this is the kind of plate you live for. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your guide this past year.

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