Monday, May 30, 2011

Night Out in DC: Oyamel

I stayed with my brother Kevin and his girlfriend Dina the night before I flew out to Korea.  Kevin had once told me about a restaurant that served grasshopper tacos and I had always been intrigued.  So, as a way of gearing my palette for the upcoming food adventures, we decided to go out for dinner at Oyamel, whose chef, Jose Andres, was the 2011 James Beard Foundation Winner of Outstanding Chef.   Normally, I do more of a review style of restaurants.  For Oyamel, though, I decided it might be more fun to just walk you through a photo collage of the adventure.    

Oyamel is a very attractive restaurant, filled with authentic themed Mexican touches as well as thoughtful colors, décor, and seating area.  For instance, there is a really beautiful bright orange flower ceiling piece right when you enter the restaurant.  There are also really great hanging pieces of butterflies that accent the restaurant. 
For drinks, Kevin got Oyamel, Dina the Sagrado Corazon, and me the Sangre y Fuego.  We passed them around and agreed that the Sagrado was probably the best, being a little tangy, a little warm, and a hint of the bright cilantro.  The Sangre was smoky, full, and a good alternative for those who don’t really like sweet cocktails.  Kevin and Dina liked it, but I wasn’t such a fan of the salt “air” of the Oyamel. 
From Left to Right: Sangre y Fuego, Sagrado Corazon,
and the Oyamel
For food, there were lots of things to try.  I ordered a Chapuline (sautéed grasshoppers, shallots, tequila, and guacamole) and Taco de Acelgas (Swiss chard, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, salsa, and chipotle), then split a Cactus Salad with Dina and the Ceviche de atun Pacifico, which is tuna with lime, scallions, avocado, pecans, jalapenos, and crispy aramath.   
The crickets were crunchy and soaked up a lot of tanginess and tartness from the tequila and lime.  I also really liked the simplicity of just crickets and avocados. 
The tuna in the ceviche was soft and creamy but needed more jalapeño.

The cactus was a first.  I really liked it because it reminded me of slightly heartier and tangier snap peas.
Kevin also order the Papas al mole, which was fries with a mole poblano sauce, sesame seeds, and queso fresco cheese.  This was the first mole I ever have and Dine and Kevin said it was richer and a little chocolatier than other moles they have had.  This one also had a lot of spice to help offset the richness of the cocoa. 
Dina ordered the Huevos Enfrijolada.  This was a nice classic dish of egg, black bean sauce, chorizo, and salsa that was great eaten with the homemade chili and lime spiced tortilla chips that come with the meal. 
Although a very upscale restaurant with somewhat pricey drinks, I liked that the food prices were fairly reasonable for small plates style.  The tacos were only about $3.50 to $5.00 and many of the other dishes ranged from $8 to $11.  All in all, it was a really fascinating food adventure, allowing me to try lots of Mexican food I’ve never had.  I appreciated the freshness of so many of dishes like the guacamole you can have made at the table, the homemade corn tortillas and tortilla chips, and the fresh complex salsa.  You can also even sit at the ceviche counter and watch the ceviche being made, cut, and assembled.  All of those touches give Oyamel a feeling of an upscale experience that wants you to reconnect with strong Mexican cooking traditions. 
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