We showed up a noon for our reservation to a half full restaurant. By the time we left most tables turned over twice. We were never rushed to leave (our waiter did try to encourage us to order a few times before we settled on what we wanted) and my water glass remained full. It’s the little things that make a good experience and all too often those courtesies are lost in the rush to get more patrons in.
Oyamel, like its sister restaurant, Jaleo, focuses on small plates for the table to share. We got down to picking our a few items to share. We decided to start with the tacos.
Pancita de puerco al pastor.
Seared house cured pork belly in a sauce of tomatoes and guajillo chiles, served with pineapple, onions and cilantro
We were most excited about the pork belly tacos. Unfortunately, the pork belly was dry. The dish was saved by the surprisingly complex combination of the pineapple and cilantro. I’m usually indifferent to cilantro but I gathered up all of the leaves that fell onto my plate and piled them into the taco.
Taco de Birria estilo Guadalajara
Guadalajara style goat, veal and lamb taco in a cascabel, ancho and guajillo chile
sauce with onions and cilantro
I was looking forward to the distinct earthy flavor of the lamb and the complexity that would come from the combination of three meats. Unfortunately, the chile sauce was so strong. It was a pleasing dish and I’m interested in trying some of the other offerings.
After the meat from the two tacos we decided to get two vegetable dishes. We started off with a salad.
Ensalada de chayote
Mexican squash salad with crumbled queso fresco cheese and crushed peanuts, in a hibiscus dressing.
My first comment was “it tastes green” I was delightfully surprised by both the taste and texture of the Mexican squash. It was very fresh but firm enough to not be slimy. Meko thought it tasted like a Chinese squash. I enjoyed the cheese and peanuts, they complimented the squash by adding a creamy flavor and crunchy texture. The hibiscus dressing didn’t add much in my opinion, or maybe I couldn’t tell the squash flavor apart from the hibiscus flavor? It was a good dish and was very fresh.
The second vegetable dish was ordered as more of a novelty.
Nopal asado con salsa molcajete.
Grilled fresh cactus paddles served with a salsa molcajete of grilled tomatoes, tomatillos, green onions, cilantro and green chiles.
We saw the words “cactus paddle” and had to try it. Our waiter warned us that cactus tasted like cooked Okra but I didn’t see the comparison.We were excited to see a whole paddle on the plate. It was Meko’s turn to say that this dish smelled green. I took one bite and decided that cactus tasted like green beans. Does anyone else think this?
We ended our lunch with the classic Mexican Churros. They came with a bitter chocolate sauce that I ignored after one bite. The churros were crunchy and slightly sweet. It’s really hard to go wrong with fried dough.
After our long lunch we decided to brave the tourists at the Mall and the Tidal Basin. I’ve been missing Denver a lot lately but that homesickness was lessened by enjoying some of the finer parts of DC.