Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Jose Andres owns a block in Washington, D.C. By my slightly wine dazed count he has four restaurants in a 2 block stretch of hip and trendy DC near the MCI center. Last weekend Lindsay and I were in DC visiting my sister, Dre, and her husband Dieter and for dinner we went to Oyamel. Oyamel is Andres' tribute to Mexican street food served in a modern space with classical Mexican accents and photographs.

We started with some booze. Lindsay's margarita showcased some of the inventiveness and playfulness Chef Andres is famous for. Instead of the salt-rimmed glass so common in any dime a dozen cantina, this margarita was topped by a lime and salt foam. Pretty bad ass.
I had a Hada Verde: St. George Absinthe, tequila, mezcal and pineapple juice. Initially the presence of so many strong and assertive liquors worried me; however the drink was fragrant and flower-like with just a hint of acid. Great cocktail.

An order of caliente guacamole-mixed table side-perfectly ripe avocados, some quesa fresca, tomatillos, and serranos all whipped around a mortar into a smooth and savory paste.

Tacos. A confit of baby pork with green tomatillo salsa and pork rinds. Killer. Then the Yucatan style pulled pork with pickled red onion and sour orange and beef tongue with pickled radishes. The beef taco just simply melted away in your mouth, leaving only the delicate film of braised meats, a tingling of pickling spice, and the wish for one more bite.
Grilled Hawaiian prawns in a muted cilantro pesto. Shrimp were cooked just through. The surprising thing of this dish was the earthiness of its flavors.

Grilled Skirt steak with a sauce of grilled tomatoes, tomatillos, green onions, cilantro, and green chiles. Simply outstanding. Great marriage of heat and textures.
Tamal Verde: chicken, tomatillo, garlic, and cilantro steamed in a corn husk was a little bland but still good.

Papas al Mole. Imagine eating gravy cheese fries at 3 in the morning in Mexico after a day of drinking Pacifico's on the back of a boat fishing for marlin and then doing the Macarena in a Carlos n' Charlie's as a waiter pours Kamikazes down your throat out of a leather rupsack, and you get this dish. Mole sauce, aged cotija cheese, and perfectly fried potatoes. Yeah, it was good.

Frijoles refritos. Refried beans formed into a cylindrical shape, stuffed with cheese and deep fried. A concept most closely aligned with fried kibbi, but here the beans were spicy and deep. Dre's quote, "these taste like Auggie's red beans after two days in the fridge."

Chapulines. Tacos stuffed with crickets sauteed in tequila and lime. Eh, interesting to try but would not eat again. The texture is very straw like and surprisingly does taste a lot like grass. But this is not a knock against it, as I am sure some people love it.
Quesadilla hutilacoche. Huitlacoche is referred to as Mexican truffle. Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows inside the ears of corn. While the taste is not entirely similar to truffle it does have that muskiness and wet earth component. Here the hutlacoche is stuffed inside a corn tortilla with some Oaxaca cheese, lightly grilled and sent out alongside of a spicy salsa verde. By far the favorite dish of the table both times we ordered it.Dessert. Cafe de Olla. This was out there. I am not sure we understand the flavors it was going for. Although Dre did order the Cafe de Olla coffee. Essentially there was a lot of anise flavor (from the star anise ice cream), weird gelatinous cubes of Kahlua, some crumbled cookies, and brown sugar sauce. Perhaps our dislike of this was due more to our lack of introduction to traditional Mexican dessert flavors, and if so that's on us.
Service was very fast and efficient. But those tacos and the quesadilla stole the show. If you find yourself in DC seeking money from a broken government, I would go to Oyamel or any of the other Jose Andres' spots.

Yes, I realize some of the photos are tiny. Dang thang was all screwy today. Just take a pill and chilax man...we never once promised perfection.


Peter said...

Crickets? Who do you think you are, Andrew Zimmern?

Rene said...

People want excitement, danger, and intrigue. This is why the blog is sending you to spend 3 weeks on a shrimp/opium boat in the South China Sea.

Make sure you get your shots and take pics!