A couple of weeks ago, I attended a weekend media brunch at Tanzy at IPIC to see if the Mizner Park restaurant’s new keto-friendly menu, “Guiltless Pleasures,” had enough flavor and substance to please us non-ketogenic masses as well.
But first, the kitchen staff, led by chef Brian Nelson, filled our tummies with traditional brunch options that couldn’t be lessketo. They were pretty much carbs laid atop carbs: There was the Monkey Bread Babka, a cinnamon and chocolate pastry drizzled with Nutella sauce, and served with a side of crispy “candy” bacon, topped with a striking, sweet-n-spicy combination of fiery pepper and brown sugar. There was the Infamously Decadent French Toast, whose name is no joke: Oven-baked with toasted cornflakes for an addictive crunch, topped with powdered sugar and macerated berries, and spilling gooey mascarpone with every bite, this is food for epicurean royalty.
Next up was the Crispy Chicken and Waffles, as delicious as it is straightforward, a comfort-food staple enhanced with a spicy maple syrup. Needless to say, nobody in our table of keto impurists complained.
Then came the keto dishes. Unlike the generally gooey, drippy, messy brunch options that preceded them, the keto appetizers are designed for easy consumption in a darkened movie theater, with few if any utensils needed. IPIC is the first cinema chain to implement a keto menu. (Playing off keto’s lower-calorie, carbless alternative to the conventional diet, the New York Postcalled its story on IPIC’s ketogenic menu “Thinner and a Movie.” Cute, eh?)
The keto version of buttermilk fried chicken boasts negative net carbs (minus-three). Made with almond flour and a spice blend of Parmesan, paprika, cayenne and garlic-onion powder and served with a sriracha ranch dip, it tastes grittier than its traditional alternative but holds up just as well: This bird can sing. (The sriracha, admittedly, helps a lot.) As I found out when I took some home, it also reheats marvelously, because the skins become crispier, and take on more flavor.
Keto steak skewers are served with seasonal vegetables; this time it was green beans that have shed their keto-unfriendly tempura batter. It was a fine cut of beef, tender and rich; unlike vegans, perhaps, keto dieters are rarely at a loss for protein.
The cocktails and desserts represent a harder row to hoe, because they need to substitute the sugar to which our taste buds have grown accustomed. IPIC/Tanzy uses Swerve, a newish, erythritol-based natural sweetener that checks off the health-conscious marks (non-GMO, non-glycemic), but could not a pull a fast one taste-wise. I was told that unlike inferior sweeteners, it doesn’t leave an aftertaste, but I detected a prominent one after each sip of the Strawberry-Basil Delight (Tito’s Vodka, basil, strawberries and kiwi sparkling ice soda).
Desserts were more of a mixed bag. “Key-to-Lime” Bars fared the best. Miniature, holdable spins on Key lime pie, these scrumptious squares made with almond flour crust, Key lime juice and the ubiquitous Swerve were heavenly, striking the perfect balance of sour pucker and confectionary sweetness. The mini chocolate chip “whoopie pies” and dark chocolate mousse made with sugar-free chocolate ganache were less successful. Of all the desserts we tried, these felt the “healthiest,” lacking the sweet finish needed to effectively emulate their more sinful namesakes.
Am I a keto convert, after sampling this menu? No. But will I order the keto fried chicken on my next IPIC visit? Sure. There’s one question, though, to which an unequivocal “yes” is the only correct response: Will I brunch again at IPIC? Until the next time, the Infamously Decadent French Toast will dance among my dreams like sugar plums.
Tanzy is at 301 Mizner Park, Boca Raton. For information or reservations, call 561/922-6699 or visit tanzyrestaurant.com.