HOUReview

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Tatemó image
9.0

Tatemó

Mexican

Spring Branch

$$$$Perfect For:Small PlatesDate NightSpecial OccasionsBrunch
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Walking up to a blacked out, unmarked door in an eerily sparse strip center could go any number of ways. Maybe you’re the main character at a climactic turning point in a gripping crime drama, or perhaps you’re about to have the best tortillas of your life. Thankfully, Tatemó, a vibrant (but totally unpretentious) Mexican tasting menu and brunch restaurant in Spring Branch provides the latter. 

The starchy, sweet smell of milled corn drifts through the small, yet modern space, which is sparsely decorated with warm wood, dried flowers, and bags of dried corn. Corn—specifically fresh masa—is the specialty at Tatemó. The program, implemented by the chef-owner and resident molinero, specializes in nixtamalizing heirloom varieties of Mexican corn in-house and making the tortillas by hand. Tatemó got its start hawking the fresh masa and tortillas at local Houston farmers markets, and humbly expanded into a 13-seat, single-room space, which is only open from Thursday to Sunday. At night, the room is near pitch black, with only flickering candles and wall sconces providing a faint glow. Someone may just as soon perform a meditative sound bath as serve you delicious corn-laden snacks.

Tatemó image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Service is attentive, yet casual, and the food is presented and described in plain language without any unnecessary myth-making. Dinner here is just that: dinner. Thankfully Tatemó is more concerned with you actually enjoying the food than serving an inscrutable Rubik’s Cube in disguise that you might find at other “high end” tasting menu operations. Throughout the six-plus courses, the food is beautiful in its simplicity: aromatic blue corn quesadillas with wonderful smooth guacamole, crispy pan-roasted vegetables and smoky salsa, thick sopes obscured in a blanket of soft shaved cheese. Waves of sweet, impossibly sumptuous notes of nutty masa break over you with every bite, and crest wonderfully with masa-flavored ice cream crowned with a caramelly bunuelo. Masa is stuffed into every bite of brunch, too. Our favorite are the fluffy, buttery masa pancakes, topped with whipped cream and preserved fruit. 

Despite being dedicated to specialty, heirloom products, the overall vibe of Tatemó is fairly relaxed, more like a casual neighborhood spot that, you know, just happens to have breathtakingly delicious food. Even though dinner reservations are limited, and the weekend menu often sells out early, nothing about Tatemó feels rushed or stressful. Just like the process of making masa, the atmosphere is focused, patient, and humble. Dinner for any occasion, like an important date, feels all the more special and intimate here. Even brunch service relaxes you—or perhaps that's just the feeling we get pressing a fresh, warm tortilla to our face.

Tatemó image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Tatemó image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Tatemó image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Tatemó image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Tatemó image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Tatemó image
Tatemó image
Tatemó image
Tatemó image
Tatemó image

Food Rundown

Tatemó image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Dinner Tasting Menu

Served Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night only, the Tatemó tasting menu focuses entirely on different varieties and preparations of heirloom Mexican corn. While the dishes rotate semi-seasonally, you can expect wonderfully fried totopos and house salsa to start, followed by bite-size snacks like mini tostadas and sopes or queso fresco quesadillas stuffed with huitlacoche. At the end, a wonderfully creamy and roasted masa ice cream arrives with a beautifully crisp and caramelly buñuelo, which tastes like the best funnel cake so good it will bring a tear to your eye.

Tatemó image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Saturday Lunch & Sunday Brunch

Both Saturday and Sunday are counter service with a limited menu of quesadillas, sopes, and tacos on toasty, beautiful blue and yellow corn tortillas. The best part of brunch is undoubtedly the masa pancakes, like soft, fluffy cornbreads, the nutty aroma of which instantly hits your nose as they arrive at the table. We could go back every Sunday—and nearly do—to glimpse their golden griddle beauty.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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