Friday, January 20, 2012


Oyamel is among the award-winning dining concepts from José Andrés, chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup, and combines Mexico’s rich regional diversity with the modern urban atmosphere of Mexico City. The liveliness of the dining room is matched by the creativity of the menu and cocktail list, featuring antojitos - Mexican small plates - ceviches and tacos, plus unique margaritas, and an impressive array of wines and tequilas.  Originally opened in 2004 in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Oyamel moved to its current home in the Penn Quarter in March of 2007.  Closest Metro is Archives - Naval Memorial.

For my last DC Restaurant Week Winter 2012 experience, I came to Oyamel with my coworkers to try the 4 course lunch.  We were seated in the back left area of the dining room with brightly colored mythical winged creatures hanging from the wall and near a large portrait of a luchador and his family.  The dining area was already busy and coupled with the upbeat music made for a very energetic atmosphere.  Our server was quite friendly and thoroughly explained the menu options. I appreciated the highlights of gluten-free and vegetarian options printed on the menu.  All of the items for each course seemed interesting and I was happy to see our group order a bit of everything.  We nibbled on the complimentary fresh tortilla chips and smoky salsa as we waited for our first course.  Service was a bit scattered and rushed as they brought out each plate, but that is understandable for the busy lunch hour.

I chose the black bean soup for my first antojito and it was delicious!  Presented with a whole charred ancho chili that you can crinkle on top to add extra smokey flavor, as well as avocado and tortilla strips for crunch, this soup was warm and filling.  The red onion gave a bite at the finish that was a bit too strong for me, yet overall this soup was my favorite dish of the whole meal.  Others in the group chose the Wahu ceviche with whole chunks of avocado and lime.  For the second antojito, I chose the shrimp while others chose the spicy meatballs or glazed brussel sprouts.  My shrimp were cooked perfectly and were accented by the spicy peppers and sweet black garlic sauce.  Seven pieces came in my portion, which was very generous for the small plates concept that I am used to.  The third course was one taco per person - either chicken, pork, or beef.  I had the chicken which was pretty hearty with the stewed potatoes, yet being that it was only one and a little lukewarm it was a lackluster course.  Those that ordered the beef taco found the meat to be tender and seasoned well, while those who ordered the pork found it dry and missing any sweet orange sauce that was advertised.

Lastly, our desserts arrived and I was already full yet managed to eat most of mine.  The first bite was moist and full of sweet rum flavor.  The caramel ice cream was a little bitter and helped balance out the sweetness of the cake while the pineapple sauce added that extra brightness with the lime zest.  I had a taste of the other dessert - a sweet potato flan with tamarind sauce and a Honeycrisp apple sorbet.  The flan was very mild in flavor but extremely smooth and creamy in texture.  The apple sorbet was delightful and refreshing.  In conclusion, I found Oyamels' RW lunch offering to be one of the best deals for this promotion and left very satisfied.  I was not blown away by any particular dish, however I would still recommend this restaurant to those looking for a contemporary twist on Mexican fare.

UPDATE: This restaurant was awarded Bib Gourmand in October 2016.

Total Rating: 3.78
Food: 3.5, Price: 4, Service: 4, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:

Sopa Tarasca estilo pátzcuaro
black bean soup with light Mexican cream and aged cotija cheese,
served with a side of crispy ancho chili, avocado, and tortilla strips

Camarones al mojo de ajo negro
shrimp sautéed with shallots, arbol chile, poblano pepper,
lime and sweet aged black garlic
Photo: Oyamel website

Tinga poblana
a taco of stewed shredded chicken with potatoes, chorizo,
and chipotle, topped with white onion

Pastel de tres leches con piña
traditional cake soaked in Coruba rum and three kinds of milk,
with a rum and milk foam, fresh pineapple gelatin and a pineapple salsa
served with a scoop of caramel ice cream
Photo: Oyamel website

 Oyamel on Urbanspoon

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