DC admittedly took many months to grow on me. The first impressions were "serious" and "reserved". Driving around the city after 10 pm at night is spooky because you'll find nobody on the streets. Random people you meet brag about the many jobs and projects they are juggling at the same time, the network they are building and their knowledge about business, arts and politics. They are experts at everything and nothing. It seems like DC residents live here to work and either climb up the latter or make this world a better place. Everyone is active all the time. Does anyone ever take a moment to stop, breathe and spend some time in the park? I often feel like an outsider for saying that I am a full-time student and I like to watch movies, skype with my boyfriend, and take long walks in my free time. That about sums it up.
|Passion fruit and vanilla ceviche (front)|
Long story short, there is a list of places I came up with that - according to reviews - make the DC culinary scene what it is: A combination of celebrity chefs, fresh local ingredients, creativity, and diversity. And Oyamel is on this list.
This Mexican eatery is located in Penn Quarter, within walking distance from the national mall, some of the city's most popular museums, and several metro stations. Its owner, José Andrés, is a Spanish chef famous for introducing the tapas concept to the U.S. His flagship restaurant minibar serves molecular cuisine tasting menus to only 12 diners per seating, and while that surely sounds amazing, us folks with an average salary and/or student budget can't afford it. Or we'd have to live off bread and water for an entire month to make up for the cost of one reservation.
Oyamel is a lot more down-to-earth. Stepping into the restaurant, we immediately noticed the colorful metal butterflies on the ceilings, the open space and abundance of daylight, as well as the fact that all tables were occupied. This is what I call busy. The atmosphere was cheerful, and so was our waiter Julian, whose service was remarkably engaging while unobtrusive at the same time. Ms Tiramisu and I were in a celebratory mood for having finished our second semester of grad school, so it is needless to say that we wanted to try a little bit of everything. Since this is a dessert blog, however, I will cut right to the chase. Just so you know: Their selection of ceviches is quite big and truly unique (think passion fruit, vanilla and rose!) and you must go for the fresh guacamole, which is prepared tableside.
For dessert, both of us ordered the tres leches. That was probably not the wisest decision in terms of writing about what Oyamel has to offer, but we knew we would start fighting over the one portion, so I chose peace over blog content. And I am kind of glad I did.
As is the case with most dishes at Oyamel, the portion was quite small, but it came surrounded by mountains of whipped cream. I could have done without this decoration to be honest (and it didn't taste special in any way either), but nothing could distract me from the cute round sponge cake soaked in milk and rum, which was topped with a scoop of delectable dark caramel ice cream. The pineapple salsa and gelatin was a nice touch and added a different, fruity fresh flavor to it. Nevertheless, I could have just eaten the cake and ice cream and felt like I was on cloud nine. The two worked very well together and were a pleasant sweet finish for a meal that consisted of interesting flavor compositions in general.
The tres leches is also a part of Oyamel's lunch special, which comes at a very reasonable price of $20 for three courses. But be aware that the restaurant serves somewhat of a Mexican version of tapas, so three of them might not be enough if you are hungry.
Considering the amount of people they were serving for lunch on a Friday afternoon, reservations are definitely recommended.
Brownie Points for the service and atmosphere: 3 out of 3