The Brunch Dish »

Reviews of brunch dishes.

The Brunch Dish: Simplicity and Spice at Takito Kitchen

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[Photographs: Chelsea Ross]

I occasionally eat meals that aren't brunch, and a dinner at Takito Kitchen a couple months ago solidified the mod Mexican eatery as one of my favorite new restaurants of the year. So the announcement that the restaurant was launching brunch filled me with Christmas-like joy. Just as at dinner, Takito Kitchen takes classic Mexican dishes and tinkers with them just so as to upgrade them with local and seasonal ingredients while still paying homage to the original inspirations. Whereas sopes and ham & eggs at any random Mexican spot might be nothing more than grungy hangover medicine, Takito manages to exhibit pristine flavors throughout its minimalist menu.

With only five items on the weekend brunch menu, and none of them sweet, I would normally be inclined to approach with trepidation. Doubts be damned, because as wee as Takito's menu may be, each dish explodes with enough flavors to run circles around most novel-like brunch menus in town. The Spanish ham & eggs ($10) are the quintessential example. Save your yawns for bedtime, because this dish is anything but predictable. It looks and tastes like a tapas party on one plate, centered around a fluffy, hulking mound of scrambled eggs enriched with Brunkow cheddar. The eggs are speckled with a generous dosage of salty, chewy Serrano ham slivers and augmented with some of the best patatas bravas I've ever tasted, like the ultimate home fries dredged through a Spanish spice shop.

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A visually stunning bowl of polenta, veggies, and eggs ($9) sounds modest, but brims with seasonal vibrancy. The polenta itself tastes like velvety, buttery porridge, the type of stuff Goldilocks would revel over right after breaking into someone's home. Green beans and summer squash were the veggies du jour the day I dined, so vivid that they practically illuminated the polenta like a Lite-Brite. A poached egg nestled on top ornaments the dish even further, taking the polenta from rich to downright indulgent with one poke of a fork tine.

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A bulk of the brunch menu is sopes, which is great for me because I would eat just about anything on a masa patty. There are chicken and vegetable versions, but the one that stole my heart was the pork belly sope ($11). Unlike some sopes I've had that require me to Texas Chainsaw Massacre my way through their dense composition in order to eat it, Takito's sopes are lighter and more tender than their compatriots. The corn masa flavor is sublime, nailing the in-between of earthy and sweet and laying the ideal foundation for thick slabs of juicy pork belly, arugula, sesame, a fried egg, and a punch-you-in-the-face hibiscus-ghost pepper salsa. I love the combo of hibiscus and ghost pepper—it's like having something so dainty paired with something so ferocious. Beauty and the Beast comes to mind.

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Takito Kitchen does Mexico proud with its thoughtful rendition of morning fare. The restraint shown on the concise menu proves that brunch dishes need not be overwrought with goopy sauces, clouds of whipped cream, or hollandaise sauces infused with blasphemy. Simplicity is key at Takito Kitchen.

Takito Kitchen

2013 West Division Street, Chicago IL 60622 (map)
773-687-9620
http://www.takitokitchen.com/

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