Restaurants & Bars 6

Oh yeah, Oyamel

Marty L. | Oct 13, 2004 08:15 AM

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has enjoyed meals at Jaleo, Zaytinya, Atlantico or minibar:

Oyamel is the real deal. Well, I assume it's "real," but not knowing enough about authentic Mexican food, I couldn't really say for sure. It is terrific, in any event.

Went for one of the benefits last night (opening night) with Chowhounds Louise and Liz McG. A soaring space, warm and festive. Can get quite noisy in spots, as at Zaytinya, but in a good, musical sorta way. A large bar with Mexican drinks, and a separate taco bar where fresh corn torillas are constantly being rolled (from what I assume is fresh masa, Zora -- please confirm!).

They're not trying to wow you with ultra-bold flavors -- emphasis on very fresh ingredients and interesting sauces. We had lots of great stuff, of which my favorites included the ox-tail tacos, the crab ceviche, the poblano chile with walnut sauce and pomegrantate seeds, a goat cheese, and the green onions in a sauce that was descibed as an almond mole but tasted more of (what the waiter described as) tamarind. Thanks to the recommendation of our sommelier (the fellow from Atlantico -- I forgot his name), we shared a really, really good Viognier that somehow worked with (and enhanced) many of the disparate flavors.

From Jose Andres on down, the service could not have been friendlier or more helpful. And, as at Zaytinya, you can have a very filling, wide-ranging meal for $30-50, inclusive of wine, tip and tax. (Of course, YMMV, especially if you order several drinks or, in the opposite direction, if you imbibe only beer or nonalcoholic beverages.) Thank goodness our Mexican choices are finally becoming more enticing. It's even worth the trek to Crystal City. (It's almost literally right around the corner from DCA.) One other thing: Free parking after 5:00.

Oyamel is hosting benefit dinners tonight and tomorrow, as well; and I think there are still tables available. I believe it opens for regular dinner service next week, with lunch apparently to follow soon afterwards.

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