Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oyamel, DC

Oyamel is another of Chef José Andrés' spectacular restaurants. This restaurant combines Mexico’s rich regional diversity with the modern urban atmosphere of Mexico City.  It has been one of my favorite restaurants in DC since it moved here in 2007.

Oyamel's dishes are all tapas, small plates, and although it is not a vegan restaurant, there are a number of dishes that are vegan or can be made vegan.  As they change the menu often, I always have to ask which dishes can be made vegan and would advise you to do the same.  On this particular visit, there were a wide array of salads that could be made vegan as well as many vegetable-based dishes.  Me and my friend started off by ordering a special cocktail off their Squash Blossom Festival menu called the Zucchini Mary, which is described as, "White pepper infused Chinanco Blanco, zucchini and tomatillo juice, aloe, epazote, basil, mint with squash blossom chip and pearl onion escabeche." In plain English, it was a green Bloody Mary that wasn't very good.

The spiced chips that they serve as a starter are super spicy and well-paired with the smoky salsa. I love their chips! We each ordered the vegan Taco de hongos, which are these wonderful soft tacos filled with guacamole and sautéed seasonal wild mushrooms with garlic and shallots. These tacos are so good that when they took them off the menu, I kept requesting them anyway. The chef would always prepare them for me even when they weren't on the menu and finally, because they were requested so often, they put them back on the menu. Yay! These are a must-try item at Oyamel.

Me and my friend also shared a couple dishes including one of my favorites, the Nopal asado con salsa molcajete, which are grilled fresh cactus paddles served with a salsa molcajete of grilled tomatoes, tomatillos, green onions, cilantro and green chiles. This dish is so good. The spicy tomato mixture on top is a great complement to the perfectly grilled cactus. If you've never tried cactus before, try this dish and you'll see what you have been missing!

We also ordered the Verduras de primavera con mole verde de Oaxaca.  This dish was a mixture of corn, peas, spring greens, fava beans, and seasonal mushrooms served with this delicious sauce of Oaxacan green mole of tomatillo, serrano chile, corn masa and epazote. At $11, this was the most expensive tapa, but certainly not the best. We both loved it, but I actually liked the other two better.

The service throughout our meal was excellent. Our waitress had only been working there for a couple days, but was really great considering how busy the restaurant was. We had arrived at 5:30 p.m. and there was already a 20-30 minute wait. Reservations are highly recommended.  José Andrés and Oyamel’s Head Chef, Joe Raffa, have done an excellent job developing an innovative Mexican restaurant menu. Although there is a heavy emphasis on cheese on this menu, there are still plenty of vegan options. The tapas range in price from $4 to $12 each so it's a pretty wide price range, but well worth the money. This restaurant is recommended.

401 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 628-1005

Oyamel on Urbanspoon

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