Friday, August 21, 2020

Joselito Casa de Comidas

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Joselito Casa de Comidas is an intimate eatery reminiscent of the timeless establishments found throughout Spain at the turn of the century. Brought to us by Javier Candon and his wife Christiana Campos, who own SER Restaurant in Ballston, Joselito's menu features traditional family recipes from Spain, but prepared with the modern techniques of today.  Closest Metro is Eastern Market.

I was invited to a media preview dinner of this new neighborhood restaurant that replaced the Sona Creamery, which closed April 2016.  Located across the street from the Eastern Market Metro, the Spanish restaurant is an homage to Javier's late father, Jose, who enjoyed long, leisurely family meals at restaurants that had an "old school" feel and a warm, casual, and inviting ambiance.  "Joselito" was Jose's childhood nickname, as well as the name of one of his favorite bullfighters and a popular child actor in 1950s in Spain.

Most all dishes on the menu are offered in three sizes—tapa (equivalent to an appetizer size), media ración (entree) and ración (family style portion)—so that guests can craft their own culinary journey. The beverage program reflects favorite beers, wines, cavas, sherries, sangrias, and vermouths from Spain.  We were greeted with a light cava - Castellroig Brut Rose.  The glassware was elegant and accented the beautiful marble bar.

Joselito's decor is meant to transport guests to the glamour and simplicity of Old World Spain. Oversized gold antique mirrors, Candon family photos dating back to the early 1900s, vintage posters from Javier's hometown in Southern Spain, and family mementos adorn the walls. Marble tables and bistro chairs from Spain sit gracefully atop black and white Spanish tiles. Large windows from inside the main dining room open into Joselito's refrigerator and wine room to serve as a colorful and vivid focal point of the fresh ingredients and prized wines.  The main dining room can seat up to 50 guests.

We then snacked on Kikos Fritos, a fried corn snack from Spain and a lovely bite of white marinated anchovies called Boquerones en Vinagre paired with a cocktail.  I chose to have the white vermouth with a sliver of lemon.  It was light and refreshing and was perfect with the anchovy.

Next, we entered the private room which can seat up to 24 guests and can be closed off from the main dining room for an event.  When not reserved, the room will be open to seat overflow walk-in guests.  Here we nibbled on slivers of hand cut black foot ham, Jamon Iberico de Bellota "Capanegra" and Queso Manchego Viejo - a one-year old cheese served with a  spicy tomato marmalade.  These two items were just some of the highlighted quality ingredients that are imported from Spain special for the restaurant.

The General Manager, Gustavo Iniesta, was proud to announce that many of the items on the menu are collaborative contributions from not only Javier's family recipes, but from his own and some other staff's family as well.  A favorite of mine was the Pate de Higaditos y Perlas de Jerez - chicken liver terrine with Oloroso pearls.  This humble spread was presented in such an elegant manner that would be great with any cheese and glass of wine.

Soon what looked like a modern chemistry experiment was brought out for display.  This glass contraption uses heat to boil chicken consommé so that it rises up into the upper chamber that is filled with various herbs and vegetables so that it can infuse the liquid with more flavor.  Once the air pressure evens out, the broth falls back down, straining itself, so that it maybe poured into the bowl.  This presentation of Consome de Pollo con Chorizo y Hierbabuena was fun and interactive.  The soup itself was warm and inviting, reminiscent of something your grandmother would serve you and perfect for the chilly evening.

We returned to the main dining room to sit for a formal dinner that started with Gambas Cocidas de Huelva - fine steamed Spanish shrimp served with salsa rosa, a dip made of mayonnaise and Sherry.  The shrimp were tender and sweet. We also sampled Javier's favorite dish - Habas con Chocos.  This stew of baby cuttlefish, lima beans, and squid ink was complex and delicate at the same time.  It was lovely and I would definitely return to order this dish often.  It paired expertly with a glass of white wine from Northern Spain - a 2015 Pazo Castrelo Alabarino, Rias Baixas.

Continuing with our tasting, others enjoyed the Bavette de Wagyu a la Plancha, a sirloin cut steak with roasted potatoes and chimichurri.  Since I do not eat red meat, Chef David Sierra (an alum of Taberna del Alabardero and Fiola Mare) made a quick substitute for me of Baby Eels (!!!) with roasted potatoes.  It looked and tasted like a seafood pasta and was paired with a delicious red wine - 2013 Tierra, Tempranillo, Rioja.

For dessert we were treated to Andalusian Torrijas, which is a like a bread pudding served with berries and ice cream.  It paired nicely with Cesar Florido Moscatel Dorado - a sweet, raisin-tasting, dessert wine.  Javier's Homemade Digestives are also available that are basically made of orange peels, brandy, and sugar that is aged for three months and served over a large cube of ice studded with fruit.

This Spanish restaurant is a welcomed addition to the neighborhood.  The quality of ingredients and authenticity of first-class hospitality really shine through to set Joselito apart in the crowd.  Daily menus ($20 for appetizer, main, dessert, and a glass of wine or coffee), special Spanish wines and cocktails, and customizable experiences like a $50pp chef tasting will be available.

The restaurant will hold a soft opening from Monday, January 9 to Sunday, January 15 with a 20% discount on food for all guests. If you can't catch the soft opening, don't worry; a "Hemingway Hour" will also be offered daily from 4-7pm where guests can enjoy everything on the menu with a 20% discount.

September 2019: Michelin Guide named this restaurant to its list of Bib Gourmand in DC - those restaurants that offer "excellent food at a reasonable price."

August 2020:  We have returned to Joselito a few times over the past couple of years.  They always provide excellent service, classic Spanish fare, and a lovely local spot to enjoy date night.  Summer Restaurant Week is here, and Keith decided to take a break from take-out or cooking at home, and made reservations for dinner out on the patio at Joselito so we could enjoy the full four course meal with wine pairing for $55.  What a deal!  We love tapas as they are so fun to share.

We started with the Salpicon de Gambas, Mejillones y Pulpo - a cold seafood salad of shrimp, mussels, and octopus with peppers and onions.  It was acidic and bright and paired well with the strong glass of white sherry - which was light in color and had a subtle nutty flavor.  Sherry is a traditional drink to start off tapas. 

Keith also ordered the Tortilla de Patata.  This traditional omelette was served warm with aioli and was delicious!  I wondered how difficult this would be to make at home.

For our second course, we shared the Mushroom Crepe with ham, egg yolk, and truffled aioli.  This was such a pretty plate, and the mushrooms were umami rock stars! The crepe itself was delicate and overall, this dish was lovely.

The Boquerones Fritos - fried anchovies - are a must order tapa, and were pretty meaty salty bites. This second course was paired with a juicy Spanish white wine that counterbalanced all the salt.

For my third course, I enjoyed the Red Snapper and Seafood Stew in a gorgeous tomato sauce.  The mussels, clams, and shrimp were all fresh and the fish was tender.  I loved this dish so much, and used all the bread to sop up every last bit of the sauce.

Keith ate the Duck breast served with creamy mushroom rice topped with arugula.  The duck was glazed in a soy-honey marinade and was very flavorful.  This third course was paired with a fruity Rioja that had nice legs and a smooth finish.

For dessert I chose Torrijas Caseras - Andalusian Bread Pudding served with ice cream.  This dessert had a nice sweet cinnamon balance and reminded me of a slice of thick French toast.  It was paired with a sweet dessert wine called Muscatel that was dark brown and thick like syrup.  While sweet, it was not as strong as other dessert wines like port.

Keith ordered the Flan - a homemade custard served with ras-al-hanout whipped cream that was a bit overpowering for his liking. 

All in all, we had a wonderful meal at Joselito and I was happy we were able to enjoy restaurant week.

Total Rating: 4.65
Food: 5, Price: 3.5, Service: 5, Ambience: 4.5, Accessibility: 5
What Micky Eats...

Joselito Casa de Comidas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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