11 December 2010

Group dinner at Oyamel, Washington, DC

Early in 2010, after dining at one of Chef Jose Andres restaurants in DC, I set a goal of trying all five of his DC venues. I did minibar in February, Jaleo in March, Café Atlantico in May, and Zaytinya in September. Oyamel was the last one, and I was part of a fairly large group that ate there in early November.

Oyamel is very much in the ‘small plates’ theme of Chef Andres other DC restaurants. Jaleo is Spanish tapas. Zaytinya is Greek mezzas. Oyamel is antojitos (or Mexican street snacks). I wondered how it would work for a group. What they did was bring out three selections at a time that were passed family style.

We started with the tableside preparation of guacamole. It was a very good guacamole. But you know what? When my wife and I eat someplace that does tableside preparation of guac, we usually don’t order it. There isn’t really that much different that you can do with mashed avocado.

The first round of items included a beet salad (which I didn’t try because I don’t like beets), gazpacho, and a quesadilla. The gazpacho was great. Normally I think of gazpacho as soup. This was a chunky ‘salad,’ more like a salsa, really. It had fruit, jicama, cucumbers, queso fresco (fresh cheese), and chilies. The quesadilla also was good. It had cheese and black, Mexican truffle.

The next round featured a taco, a tamale, meatballs, and a fish dish. They all were good, but the fish was my favorite. The menu said it was ‘tilefish.’ I don’t really know too much about that kind of fish, though Wikipedia says that the FDA advises pregnant and breast-feeding women to avoid them because of possible mercury contamination. The fish was topped by a ‘sauce’ (again more like a salsa) of capers, almonds, greens and tequila. I also liked the tamale a lot. It had shredded chicken, chili, and a tomatilla sauce.

The last course was dessert. One was a chocolate sorbet – good, but I’m not a big chocolate lover. The other was a cake soaked in rum and ‘tres leches’ (three milks), served with a scoop of dark caramel ice cream.

So with this group dinner, I accomplished my goal of eating at all five of Chef Andres’ DC nameplate restaurants. The group dinner was a bit of a compromise. On the one hand, I got to try more dishes than I would have if I’d eaten alone or in a smaller group. But on the other hand some of the items we were served, I wouldn’t have chosen for myself anyway.

I think I’ll give Oyamel another try someday. But of his five restaurants, I like Café Atlantico the best and Zaytinya second best. He also has a restaurant in Los Angeles that I’d like to try someday.

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