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Oyamel Cocina Mexicana in Penn Quarter


SanFran88
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And a tip for those who are brave enough to venture into Crystal City (and possibly even cross the Potomac! :shock: ) in your vehicles -- there is free (nights & weekends) parking underneath Oyamel on the south and east sides of that block.  Or you can pay the $4 valet parking.

And, there is a Metro stop roughy a block away (I say roughly because it is a somewhat long block).

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I thought that was the "Cafe de la Olla" dessert. Either way, they were both spectacular.

And yes, the salt air is a total bar gimmick! However, I did prefer it to having an excessively salted rim. Only 'downside' was the latte-like behavior of the foam, in that you have to break through it to get at the liquid, and it didn't dissipate as a foam on a hot liquid would. It also had the effect of creating a pleasent ocean-like scent that I didn't notice until we moved to the table. Perhaps that is the point, to create that sort of transportational effect inside a bar. The 'vitamin' turned out to be lecithin, the chemical that aids binding in merengues and vinaigrettes (Thanks, Alton!). I didn't think you could emuslify water like that, though, but she did have a whole box of the stuff rather than a tablespoon of mustard or egg yolks worth. Guess you can brute force it!

Nowthen, on to business! mnebergall and mdt have done a good job of outlining the meal, so I just have a few to throw in. First the thus-far omitted oxtail tacos, which are high in the running for the title of My Favorite Taco Of The Evening. I wasn't troubled by the non-warmness of the two beef based tacos. In fact, I never considered that perhaps they should have been different until it was mentioned in the thread. The enchiladas were good, though I don't remember their specifics.

Also good was the Oaxacan tamale, with shredded chicken in mole. The Salmon ceviche (Salmon cubes with avocado and onion(?)) was my favorite of the ceviches. The roasted scallop didn't do much for me. mnebergall is right, the tilapia could be quite good if the sauce was stronger. Don't believe your waitron when he says that the basket of glowing hot, fluffy tortillas are just for eating. They're for the fish tacos that will arive a bit later!

Just so we're clear, mdt's typo regarding the chicken soup should be interpreted as 'incredible'; it was by no means 'inedible'. :raz: Far from it. In fact, we ate all of it! I had to order up a round of little salsa bowls so we could all share, but still! Yes yes, it's obvious what he meant, but I'd hate for somebody to get even the most fleeting wrong idea about this soup! Ok, no more hyping the tasty soup. Hate to go all Episode One on it.

The desserts were all awsome. It's obvious that Steve Klc put a lot of thought and care into their conception. My favorite, despite my LONG-standing weakness for molten chocolate cakes (Especially younger sister Jenn's molten chocolate truffle cakes :wub: ), is probably the Cafe de la Olla. The blend of spices and chocolates harmonizes perfectly with the flavors of the meal to that point. That said, if I were to go, have a couple of plates, and then Bogart a dessert, I would probably go with the granita. It would be the perfect, refreshing, palate-cleansing end to what for me would probably have been a spicy and meat-heavy dinner. See also: the passion fruit soup. The desserts are certainly large enough to be shared, though.

-- C.S.

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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Just want to add a note about my favorite things -- the starches.

In the bar, we were given plantain chips and a very nice tomatillo guacamole. At the table, we got more of the plantain chips mixed with some tasty and very tender, yet crisp tortilla chips. Be sure to seek out the tortilla chips before your dining partners eat them all!

And the fresh tortillas were exceptional -- I would have been happy with a whole basket of them just for myself. I am keeping my fingers crossed that in the future they will come with the frequency and quantity with which the pita arrive at your table when at Zaytinya.

The frijoles refritos (made with black beans) and the smoky lentil dish were also both excellent. Total comfort food.

As to the desserts -- I recall it was the cold one (the flan) that was the one with the interesting spices (including anise) which Steve said would be drowned out if one ate it while drinking coffee. The molten chocolate cake was a much more straight forward chocolate flavor that was notable for the temperature and texture (especially when eaten with the accompanying vanilla ice cream). And I don't even like chocolate! :laugh:

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The flan did have interesting spice flavors including anise. The molten cake was chocolate mole, right? And mole is typically a mixture of all kinds of chiles, spices, unsweetened chocolate, and peanuts. Maybe I was in a food induced coma. I guess I need to get back there and order it again!

Edited by mdt (log)
Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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Just want to add a note about my favorite things -- the starches. 

In the bar, we were given plantain chips and a very nice tomatillo guacamole.  At the table, we got more of the plantain chips mixed with some tasty and very tender, yet crisp tortilla chips.  Be sure to seek out the tortilla chips before your dining partners eat them all!

And the fresh tortillas were exceptional -- I would have been happy with a whole basket of them just for myself.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that in the future they will come with the frequency and quantity with which the pita arrive at your table when at Zaytinya. 

The frijoles refritos (made with black beans) and the smoky lentil dish were also both excellent.  Total comfort food.

As to the desserts -- I recall it was the cold one (the flan) that was the one with the interesting spices (including anise) which Steve said would be drowned out if one ate it while drinking coffee.  The molten chocolate cake was a much more straight forward chocolate flavor that was notable for the temperature and texture (especially when eaten with the accompanying vanilla ice cream).  And I don't even like chocolate!  :laugh:

The plantain chips on our table were gone in a nanosecond, prompting Mr. Rockwell to observe "giving the 4 of us one basket of plantains is like giving a man in the desert a thimble full of water".

Mark

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Because I could not face a normal sandwich for lunch today, after that meal at Corduroy last night, I went back to Oyamel for lunch today and sat at the bar. They had a copy of the USA Today and Post at the end of the bar for customers to read which I thought was a nice touch. I enjoyed reading the Food section and seeing Monica's article and eGullet mention. Anyway on to what I ate.

I had a homemade honeydew melon Agua Fresca. The bartender, Sharon (of salt air fame), is making these from scratch and will have various flavors based upon product availability. They also had watermelon available today. Very refreshing and not too sweet. I think there might have been a touch of salt, but I forgot to ask.

For lunch I had the mushroom soup and huevos montulena.

The soup was rich earthy broth full of large meaty pieces of various mushrooms. Very satisfying on this dreary day.

The huevos was a sunny-side up egg served on top of their wonderful black refried beans and a tortilla. This was surrounded by a tasty tomato sauce, slices of ham, and topped with a few peas. While enjoyable, I think that I would try something else on my next visit.

For dessert (How could I resist a Klc dessert?!) I had the molten chocolate cake. As wonderful as last time and to my surprise it was not spicy as I had remembered. I guess some of the flan was still on my plate when I tried this the last time. :raz:

Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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For lunch I had the mushroom soup and huevos montulena.

The huevos was a sunny-side up egg served on top of their wonderful black refried beans and a tortilla.  This was surrounded by a tasty tomato sauce, slices of ham, and topped with a few peas. 

I have had Oyamel's huevos montulena recently as well. They are spectacular!!!! Use your fork to mix the tomato sauce with the refried beans and a bit of egg yolk -- throw on a pea and you have a truly tasty emulsion!!!!! I yearn for Mexico!!!!

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I am somewhere between tears and fury reading this thread. I grew up on Tex Mex, but ventured ever so gingerly into Mexico, and I can hardly wait to taste all the wonderful dishes you early diners are describing. The warm chocolate cake sounds to me like raucous sex brought to Crystal City (not an easy image to visualize :raz:). I am thinking thoughts best left unsaid in polite society. Soon, very soon...and often, I'm sure.

THW

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." John Maynard Keynes

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Went to Oyamel for a small dinner after work, but have little to add to the thread. Why? Because I had basically the same stuff I had when we went for the soft opening! Come on, that stuff was good, and I wanted more! So, the lineup was: oxtail tacos, Tamales Oaxacanos, and a new member of the team: fried potatoes with mole. These were the potatos we were going to get if we went in for another round of food before dessert, but opted instead for the dessert. They were french-fried potatoes, of some not-your-standard-restaurant-fries variety: Sweeter and slightly smoky, and nicely fried, topped with mole and drizzled with some sort of creamy stuff. The head and tail of the meal were an above-pictured Oyamel Margarhita (bit 'boozier' and with thinner salt air than last time, but servicable and appreciated after work!), and the goat milk Cajeta. Went with one of the lighter desserts, just like I posited I might! The Cafe de la Olla was calling to me, but I just couldn't do it!

On some level, maybe I should have tried some dishes other than those we had when we went. But I figure hey, I'll be there enough...all in good time!

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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The plantain chips on our table were gone in a nanosecond, prompting Mr. Rockwell to observe "giving the 4 of us one basket of plantains is like giving a man in the desert a thimble full of water".

Oyamel plantains and Komi crackers.

Imagine the two in a boxing ring, a plantain in red trunks, cracker in blue, duking it out for chips-n-dip-in-hip-digs supremacy.

The plantains and salsa - one floats like a butterfly, the other stings like a bee, Ali gee.

These things Rock, Maninoff.

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These things Rock, Maninoff.

For sure. You should plan ta ingest some right away.

Sounds like everybody is also in the oxtail taco know by now. Still, I'd like to put in some words for the grilled onions, which are good and smoky-sweet and topped with an almond mole that will leave you wanting more. OK?

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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iamthestretch: Did you ever work for the Times?

Are the plantain chips still free? When I was in last week, I didn't get any when I sat at the bar, and it didn't occur to me until just now. It also didn't occur to me to ASK for some, so it might have just been an oversight. Think I'm due for another 'dose' of oxtail taco goodness soon. I can see this being a weekly thing! Funny how I've been to Oyamel a couple times since it opened, but I've still never eaten at Jaleo.

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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We ate at Oyamel last weekend at the bar and loved it. The chips are definately still free as we had two baskets of them. I had some sort of Tequila martini with peppers and passion fruit? The bartender suggested it and it was more of a fufu drink but still very good. We must have tried half the menu! I remember the Jaiba ceviche was good, as were the Tongue Tacos, Chiles en nogales, etc. The only dissapointment was the Tamal en Hoja. It was very dry and lacked any substantial taste. We ordered extra Chile sauce to be able to make it palatable.

For dessert we had the Hot Chocolate Cake with Chiles, A cajeta dessert, and then another one which I don't remember, as the kitchen sent it out by mistake. If I can say anything about SteveKLC is that he knows his pastries! They were delicious.

I would definately return!

Edited by raisab (log)

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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oy.

Gentlemen, avert your eyes for the following paragraph.

Ladies: If your male dining partner should mistake the chipotle floating on the willy wonka chicken soup for a morel, ingesting it whole and thereby claiming to see god every few minutes into the continuing conversation, I implore you to be gentle in your ensuing diplomacy. Ask simply for a tortilla for yourself, for they are good enough--soft corn mashed and then sizzled--that your request won't seem abnormal. Pass it, without comment, to your companion, who will devour it and shortly thereafter return to normal. Do not explain the situation to your kind waiter, if he is male. Apparently, there is testosterone at stake in these things.

This is my new favorite restaurant. Our waiter, Nicolas, was kind and smart and shared everything he knew about dragonfruit as currency and the anatomy of an ox, and the sipping tequila to which he directed us put my Macallan scotch--the bottle I keep at the back of the pantry and only let out a few times a year--to shame. Have one frufru drink first, only to taste the chili-mixed salt mixed with the ground worm, and then go to the goodstuff for every drink thereafter. We tried everything that's already earned raves here, and none disappointed.

But be careful with your dishes, if you're the type that savors: Eager staff try to whisk them away before you've scooped the last drudge of goodness. We learned to guard them, which earned me a laugh from Nicolas at the end of the evening as I threw my arms around the heavenly chili chocolate cake dessert. "Like a cat," he said, but we'd warded our treasured chicken soup off from no less than six attempts to take it, and I wasn't playing that game again.

Edited by babka (log)
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Ladies: If your male dining partner should mistake the chipotle floating on the willy wonka chicken soup for a morel, ingesting it whole and thereby claiming to see god every few minutes into the continuing conversation, I implore you to be gentle in your ensuing diplomacy.  Ask simply for a tortilla for yourself, for they are good enough--soft corn mashed and then sizzled--that your request won't seem abnormal.  Pass it, without comment, to your companion, who will devour it and shortly thereafter return to normal.  Do not explain the situation to your kind waiter, if he is male. Apparently, there is testosterone at stake in these things.

okay, so i broke the rules.

but let me just say, if your man can't handle a simple chipotle (dried jalepeno) then he has no business calling himself a man. real men suck these things down (the kind packed in adobo sauce), pound their chests, and then take a bite of a brick of cheese, as if it were an apple.

I wanna say something. I'm gonna put it out there; if you like it, you can take it, if you don't, send it right back. I want to be on you.

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Bugger your cheese! Real men take a bite out of a real brick and then laugh hugely with their mouths full, spraying red dust all over the table.

I agree about the service at Oyamel, though. One of Jose Andres' strengths seems to be his ability to keep good people. If James is at the bar, you're in luck. He walked me through the long menu from memory the first time I went in and dismissed my compliments with a laugh. "This is easy! I used to be at Zaytinya and there were about twice as many to remember -- in Turkish." He also sings.

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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We ate at Oyamel last night for the first time. Snuck in about 4:30 with my wife and now almost 4 year old daughter. I would echo most of what has already been said. The foamed margarita is excellent as are the agua frescas (no horchata though). We had the chicken tacos, the filet with tamarind, the scallops with pumpkin seeds, the quesadilla with cheese and squash blossoms, the quail with rose petals, and the cheese and mushroom enchilada. All were very good. We particularly liked the quail and the scallops. My daughter used the corn tortillas to mop up the sauce that came with the quail -- all in all a good idea. For dessert we did the milk chocolate flan, the warm chocolate cake, and the goat milk cajete. My favorite was the flan, my daughter devoured the warm chocolate cake and my wife fell in love with the goat milk cajete. All were wonderful. Service was excellent. I would add this to the list, along with Jaleo, of restaurants that are "kid friendly" provided you go at off hours (and your kid isn't a monster :raz: ).

Tony

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I enjoyed my first trip to Oyamel at lunch today. My friends and I enjoyed many of the dishes already mentioned, but wanted to point out the Oaxacan tamale with smoky mole chicken and moist but not gloppy corn meal. Beautiful blend of creamy and smoky. Also a standout was the tenderloin with tamarind glaze. This was also a blend of textures from the oh so tender meat with the viscous tangy-sweet-smoky glaze and crunch of the spattering of kosher salt on top. My only disappointment was my own in forgetting about the agua frescas and ordering an iced tea. Next time.

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Is it worth schlepping to NoVa?

It takes a very good reason for me to go on that side of the Potomac :wink:

It's certainly worth the trip to VA. See Mark's suggestions on what to eat -- the ceviches (except for the clam :shock: ) and tacos are awesome!!!!

He's right, it's worth crossing the Potomac.

Everyone else is right about the crab ceviche, dragon fruit, oxtail tacos. Don't miss 'em.

Add the squashblossom quesadilla to the list of great dishes.

I had a hibiscus margarita that was excellent. Just a touch of sweetness to bring out the flavor of the flower.

We ended the meal with a pitcher of hot chocolate. It was agreed that this would be perfect after an afternoon of ice skating!

My only complaint is that many of the dishes such as the tacos and oyster ceviche have three servings. It makes sharing a bit hard. At different times in the evening three of us were gushing over the plate in front of us while the fourth sat and watched. It would be a great exercise in diplomacy the next time you are in the middle of major negotiations. You can have the third oxtail taco but I get the money I need for __________.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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Oyamel is still working out the kinks service wise. I would avoid during busy hours. We had a frustrating dinner there Saturday night. First, my 'pre-reservation' for a table of 5 (called in on Thursday) was never written down. Then they seemed to forget us and we were not seated for 90+ minutes. This lead to about 4+ margaritas each (they are great) and dimished our ability to taste the food...

Service at the table was equally sporadic with the first dishes coming out within minutes of ordering and the next round 40 minutes later. The oxtail tacos stood out as excellent as did the oysters. No patience for dessert so I cannot comment.

Omayel is certainly a popular restaurant, and kudos to the owners for choosing this very busy and welcoming location.

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