100 Best Restaurants 2008: Oyamel
No. 38: Oyamel
Reviewed By Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Cynthia Hacinli, Dave McIntyre
Comments () | Published January 1, 2008
Happy Hour
Address: 401 Seventh St., NW, Washington, DC 20004
Phone: 202-628-1005
Neighborhood: Penn Quarter/Chinatown, Downtown
Cuisines: South American, Tapas/Small Plates, Mexican
Opening Hours: Open Sunday and Monday 11:30 AM to 10 PM, Tuesday through Thursday 11:30 AM to 11:30 PM, Friday and Saturday 11:30 AM to midnight.
Nearby Metro Stops: Gallery Place-Chinatown, Archives-Navy Memorial
Price Range: Moderate
Dress: Upscale Casual
Noise Level: Chatty
Reservations: Recommended
Best Dishes House-made guacamole; short ribs with chili-tomatillo-cilantro mole; tacos of pit-barbecue pork with pickled red onions; grilled skirt steak with green chili sauce.

Cuisine: Regional Mexican cooking as interpreted by José Andrés, the driving force of the “small plates” movement. Overstuffed, cheesy platters are replaced by a parade of two- and three-bite dishes that hew closely to their regional sources and pulse with bold flavors. Even the salads are brought vividly to life.

Mood: This corner restaurant, across from the Shakespeare Theatre’s Lansburgh stage in Penn Quarter, is a nightly party—a loud, colorful spot where the drinks flow, the dishes keep coming, and the tabs can get shockingly high.

Best for: Postgame or posttheater diners looking to extend the outing by a few hours—the menu is long enough to keep a lot of people happy, and the drinks will keep the festivities going—and anyone tired of the indistinct plates that too often pass for Mexican cooking.

Best dishes: Creamy avocado soup; light meatballs in a thick chipotle sauce; fruit-salad gazpacho; plump, sweet scallops atop a complex pumpkin-seed mole; tortilla soup of surprising clarity and depth; braised short ribs with mole verde; a tangy, creamy goat’s-milk cajeta.

Insider tips: It’s easy to overorder both drinks and eats, causing your bill to spike. If your focus is the food, forgo the amped-up margarita and other blender drinks and try any of the good—and cheaper—Mexican beers. The tacos, pretty in their special metal folders, lure many diners, but they’re one of the least rewarding regions on the menu.

Service: ••

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 01/01/2008 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Restaurant Reviews