401 7th Street NW
Washington DC 20004
I simply cannot say enough good things about this place, located close to both Metro Center and the Archives/Navy Memorial stops on the Metro. This is truly tapas done right -- for a reasonable price.
Immediately after entering this restaurant, which offers a healthy mix of authentic Mexican decor and elegant simplicity. Oyamel is classy yet comfortable, its food lovely (and dramatically presented). The service is often a bit hit-or-miss -- but the food never disappoints!
After enjoying tortilla chips with a smoky, delicious salsa, we ordered five small plates (split between two people):
Ensalada de Chayote [squash salad]: the most original, inspired dish I've had in a long, long time. Thinly sliced chayote and nutty queso fresco-- topped with a hibiscus dressing. Couldn't be better, unless the portion was larger!
Ceviche de atun Pacifico [tuna ceviche]: slightly spicy, smooth and refreshing, though the texture could have been better: it reminded me more of tuna salad than ceviche!
Pollo con mole poblano [chicken with mole]: a fairly large portion for tapas, with a smooth, rich mole-- a real winner!
Costillas de Cordero a la Parrilla [lamb chops with a green herb sauce]: by far, the best of the meat dishes. The sauce (cilantro and garlic were the central flavors) was smooth and robust, the lamb tender and perfectly prepared.
Arrachera con salsa molcajeta [skirt steak with salsa]: the spiciest of the dishes we ordered, but tastefully so. J loved it (good skirt steak is a bit hard to find outside of the Mid-West).
Desserts (somewhere, my other friend Sarah is grinning):
Mine: goat milk caramel sauce and crumbled shortbread, topped with lime zest and fresh mango, plus a quenelle each of passionfruit sorbet and coconut sorbet. Light and delicious-- for me, the highlight of the meal!
His: dark chocolate torte, topped with homemade vanilla ice cream and a creamy mole. We both loved the torte and ice cream, but the mole was slightly bitter and heavy on the anise.
The Coffee: traditional Mexican coffee, full of spice and with a touch of sugar. Oyamel won double points with me when they served the coffee in a dramatic cup with (the clincher!) warmed heavy cream. Kudos!
I had more fun here than I've had at almost any other restaurant in DC. I mean, what really beats elegant fare-- in a relaxed atmosphere?