Tamayo is a Richard Sandoval restaurant, so it gets a lot of press for that reason alone. Richard Sandoval is a chef / restaurateur who runs over a dozen restaurants worldwide, nearly all offering Latin American influenced cuisine. That dynasty includes several spots in the Denver metro area, a couple more in Colorado's ski towns, and many across the United States, Mexico, and the Middle East. We've dined at one of his restaurants in our pre-blog days - Zengo, in the Riverfront area - and we weren't terribly impressed.
Tamayo describes itself on its website as a "modern, exclusive, and festive restaurant that has become a benchmark against which fine Mexican food is measured."
Exclusive, huh? Well, I suppose I have a bit of a weakness for snob appeal. And it's all too easy to consider yourself a benchmark for fine Mexican food in Denver, since there are very few high-end Mexican restaurants to choose from.
That being said, Tamayo has a look and feel similar to Lola on the other side of the Platte River in the Highlands. We're pretty big fans of Lola, so we were curious how the food, service, and atmosphere would compare at Tamayo.
Tamayo's location at Larimer Square puts it near many other well-known Denver restaurants, including Euclid Hall, Rioja, and Osteria Marco. Their rooftop patio draws crowds looking to have dinner or drinks outside, and it was especially busy on the warm and sunny March day of our visit.
We arrived for our dinner reservations with another couple for 7 pm on a Saturday night, and opted to sit inside.
|Mural above bar at Tamayo|
Perusing the drink menu, Tamayo's beer selection is limited, and they seem to be much more focused on margaritas or tequila cocktails. At $12 each, the margaritas were fairly expensive, and Mr. Oyster was disappointed to find that nothing he tried was nearly as good as his beloved Dr. J margarita at Lola.
To start off the meal, we split a couple entradas among the table.
First up was the Chile Relleno ($13), which comprised of a poblano chile stuffed with gouda cheese, calamari, shrimp, and scallops.
Presentation of the stuffed chile was beautiful, and it was packed generously with seafood. However, the shrimp looked and tasted like they were standard frozen shrimp. Also, I felt the dish overall was missing something in terms of flavor, and it wasn't quite as spicy as I would've liked.
Next, we tried the Mahi Mahi Ceviche ($11).
|Mahi Mahi Ceviche|
Served like a salsa, the mahi mahi pieces arrived in a bowl with a "sweet and spicy," soupy tomato broth, and chips on the side for dipping. For being a completely landlocked state, Denver restaurants seem to get ceviche right. We've tried ceviche dishes at Lola, Linger, and Vesta Dipping Grill, and they've all been well-executed. This was probably my least favorite of any ceviche I've had in Denver, as the broth was just too sweet.
Mr. Oyster and I also split the Tacos De Puntas De Filete ($13), or beef tenderloin tacos.
|Tacos de Puntas de Filete|
The tacos contained the aforementioned beef tenderloin, cubes of panela cheese, and guacamole. I didn't notice until writing this up, but the menu also stated that the tacos were supposed to contain chile toreado salsa. The tacos certainly could have used something, as the flavors of the cheese and guacamole were too simple, and the beef lacked enough spice or seasoning to make up for it.
We also split one of their Platos Fuertes, the Enchiladas de Jaiba ($23), or crab enchiladas.
|Enchiladas de Jaiba|
Th enchiladas were filed with lump crab meat, corn, spinach, onions, and cheese, and smothered in a roasted tomatillo sauce. The sauce had a heavy lime flavor, but everything else was a bit bland. The stringy crab meat really didn't stand out in the dish.
Finally, dinner ended with the Empanadas de Platano ($8), or banana empanadas.
|Empanadas de Platano|
The empanadas were like a churro in pocket form, stuffed with sweetened bananas and topped with coconut ice cream. I loved the mix of creamy coconut, sugary bananas, and cinnamon-drenched empanada. This dessert was my favorite dish of the night, and the only thing that I really enjoyed.
Overall, everything we tried was either average or subpar, and came with a high price tag. Also, for a place that considers itself "fine dining," the service wasn't quite up to par. Our waiter was very slow to take our orders, timing of dishes was off, and I had a few bits of crud on the bottom of one my forks.
In short, I can't imagine any reason for us to make a return visit to Tamayo. For the high price tag, there are too many other good restaurants in Denver, particularly on this stretch of Larimer. And for coastal Mexican food, Lola in the Highlands is a much better option.
Pros: Rooftop patio, good empanada dessert
Cons: Food disappointing overall, expensive