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Tips from Minibar: Oyamel and New Big Wong

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Tips from Minibar: Oyamel and New Big Wong

Marty L. | Jul 25, 2004 12:24 PM

Finally had dinner at Minibar last night. Yes, it was all it's been cracked up to be. Eye-opening and really fun. I don't have much to add to Kliman's review and the wonderful descriptions here and over on egullet, except to list some of my favorite dishes:

Crispy Rice with Nori
Melon Tenderloin w/Arugula
"Caesar Salad"
Baby (japanese) peach with yogurt
Conch Fritter
"Corn on the Cob"
Zucchini "caviar" -- truly amazing
Hot & cold foie gras soup
Guacamole and tomato sorbet
Egg 147-degrees w/caviar
New new England clam chowder
Fresh sardines in a crust
Meat & potatoes (w/wiff of truffle), and
the Pina Colada (and I ordinarily *hate* pina coladas)

(No lightbulb!)

The common wisdom about drinks is also correct -- it's really, really difficult to find any single wine (or two or three) to match with such a vast array of tastes. The Uruguayan viognier was nice near the end of the meal, where there are some richer items. And the best match at the beginning was probably the sparkling wine from New Mexico -- I've forgotten its name. But I think it's a crap shoot for the most part -- although someone with much more wine knowledge than I could probably come up with a really successful game plan.

Minibar is closing soon for five weeks and will reopen in September with a substantially revamped menu.

Anyway, the evening included three very promising leads, as well:

Katsu Fukushima is very excited about the Mexican place that he and Jose Andres will be opening in November in Crystal City, to be named Oyamel (after the fir forests in Michoacan to which monarch butterflies migrate). He said that it would probably be similar in style to Zaytinya -- lots of $5 -$10 small plates -- and that they had recently spent a couple of weeks in Mexico tracking down all sorts of good ideas. This could be the answer to our Mexican woes here in D.C.!

Jeff Ramsey, of Tako Grill and Signatures fame, is, indeed, working at Atlantico, and at Minibar (apparently we just missed him last night). Reportedly he is learning the Andres/Fukushima methods, and the CA/Minibar folks are trying to pick up a few new twists from him, too. Has the potential to be a great, inspired match.

Finally, Josh, our terrific minibar chef/host, told us that he and many other local chefs have lately been grabbing late-night chow at New Big Wong, on the 600 block of H St. He says that it's a really great hole-in-the-wall, with a lot of character (and host to many, uh, characters) and some terrific vegetable and seafood options (some of which are not on the menu), including the whole shrimp (he specified that one should ask them to cook the shrimp for exactly one minute), the conch, and seafood fried rice. Has anyone been? Any specific recommendations? Is it just as good for lunch, too?

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