Oyamel Cocina Mexicana

Ana and I had an extraordinary dinner at Oyamel, a José Andrés restaurant, on 6-8-2017. I knew from past visits that this would be good but it went way beyond my expectations.  The food was fantastic but the service was just beyond amazing.

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5
Food & Drink: 5 out of 5

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Like all of José Andrés’ restaurants the space was super visually appealing. The main dining room had butterflies hanging all over the ceiling and featured a standalone ceviche station.

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Hanging from the ceiling in the back room were little sculptures to dramatic effect.

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And again the butterflies reemerged in the sun drenched bar to the left of the entrance. It was in this room that we sat in a large, comfy booth against the blue wall.

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We were initially greeted by General Manager Andres Sweek who was warm and welcoming. He went above and beyond to make sure we had a great meal and he definitely succeeded! He paired us with Bar Manager and Assistant Manager Alan Grublauskas who was with us throughout the meal. Alan talked to us about each course and was very attentive.

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Even the menus are beautiful! Originally we planned to order a la carte but at Alan’s suggestion we went with the Oyamel Experience Menu and I’m so glad we did! It’s basically a chef’s tasting menu but it’s not predetermined–you guide them with your likes and dislikes. They just pair, size, and time things a little differently than if you’d ordered individual items.

We of course tucked into a pair of speciality margaritas while Alan walked us through the menu. When in Rome–er–Mexico!

Left:  Margarita del dia. This one featured Chartreuse and a syrup made from beer. Now, beer in a margarita sounded like it might taste funky but this was definitely good.

Right: Blood orange chile pequin margarita (Sauza Blue silver, Combier L’Original, fresh lime juice, blood orange, chile pequin). This was really well balanced and tasty.

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We also had a really nice chat with Head Chef Omar Rodriquez. Man, what a nice guy! He spoke with us for a while, telling us about his time working at other José Andrés restaurants, about his lovely family, and tips on the best ways to get into barmini. He was awesome.

Top: Table side guacamole (green tomatillo, serrano chile, crumbled queso fresco, homemade tortillas). Bottom: chips and salsa.

Chef Omar sent these out which was so nice–thanks Chef!! The guac was obv yummy but it’s the experience of the table side preparation that’s so special. I really love that part.

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Left to right: black cherry agua fresca, guava agua fresca.

Once we came up with our game plan for the food we switched gears and ordered more drinks. These were really delicious and much closer to juice than those I’d had in the past, which were more like subtly flavored water. I can literally still taste the black cherry and kind of can’t stop thinking about it.

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Ceviche de atún Pacífico (Ahi tuna with Maggi-lime marinade, scallions, avocado,
toasted pecans, fresno chiles, crispy amaranth). This was fantastic and one of my fav dishes! The toasted amaranth had a great crunch while the slightly spicy flavor was a mixture of soy sauce, cilantro, and pecan. I would definitely recommend this.

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“Gaspacho” estilo Morelia (seasonal fruit, jicama root, cucumbers, queso fresco, house-made hot sauce). I’m going to totally honest, because we were doing the tasting menu I’m not 100% sure that description is right. But I do know this definitely had jicama! The dish was light and lovely with a very beet-forward flavor, which I’m counting as “seasonal fruit.”

The ceviche and salad were our first course and then they then changed our share plates. In fact they continued to change plates so often I lost track–like more than once a course. Needless to say it was wonderful! I absolutely did not want these strong, divergent flavors to mix. I heart clean share plates!!!

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Arroz verde (Anson Mills Charleston Gold rice, tomatillo, jalapeno, cilantro and spring vegetables). This was surprisingly good in that it was way more savory and flavorful than I expected. It may be because the rice was cooked in mushroom stock but, whatever the reason, it had a really great umami.

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Salmon Tikin Xic (Seared achiote-marinated Skuna Bay salmon, creamy garbanzo puree, salad of hearts of palm, dates, mint and cilantro). This was perfectly cooked: crispy skin and very flavorful. Plus, not gonna lie, I absolutely love how well it photographed.

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Camarones al mojo de ajo negro (Wild caught Gulf Coast white shrimp sautéed with
shallots, árbol chile, poblano pepper, lime, sweet aged black garlic). This dish was good and reminded me of camarones al ajillo you’d get at a Spanish tapas restaurant. Like the ceviche I tasted a hint of soy sauce again.

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Nopal asado con salsa molcajete (Grilled fresh cactus paddles, salsa molcajete of grilled tomatoes, tomatillos, green onions, cilantro, poblano peppers). This was tied for my fav dish of the night. I believe my quote upon tasting this was “OMFG this is amazing” except I didn’t use an acronym. If you’ve never had salsa malcajete you should just stop what you’re doing right now and go to Oyamel. Apparently they make it by hand in a vessel that’s basically an 80lb version of that little stone guacamole bowl. The flavor was just AMAZING: vinegary, savory, smoky.  You could taste the tomatillo, the cilantro, and the salt. I need to investigate buying mass quantities of molcajete to just eat with everything.

Time for more drinks!

Left: Al Gusto (Cucumber-infused Sauza Blue silver, St. Germain, lime, topped with sparkling Segura Viudas). Between the sparkling wine and the cucumber this was super refreshing.

Right : Sagrado Corazon (Chinaco blanco, cilantro, toasted coriander gimlet over hibiscus ice). This was beautiful to look at and had a really lovely taste too. Being a gimlet it was definitely very lime-y but that mellowed as the hibiscus ice melted. Plus who doesn’t love a giant purple ice cube?

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Quesadilla huitlacoche (corn tortilla, Chihuahua cheese, Roy Burns Farm Mexican corn truffle, corn, tomato, onion, epazote). This was good but didn’t really have that much huitlacoche.

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Costillas de res con salsa huitlacoche (Roseda Farms dry-aged beef ribs in ancho and arbol chile rub, mesquite smoked with salsa huitlacoche). These however had a LOT of huitlacoche. It was a main ingredient in the salsa, which was a great combo of vinegar, heat, and fat. The actual ribs were fasntastic as well. They were perfectly cooked and very tender without being overly fatty.

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Top: Lengua guisada (Braised local beef tongue with radishes and a sauce of roasted pasilla chile, tomatoes, onion and garlic). This had a very soft, mild taste. It was by no means bad but it was a little subdued coming off all the strong flavors I’d just had.

Bottom: Cochinita pibíl con cebolla en escabeche (Yucatán-style pit barbecued Rocky Hollow Farm pork with Mexican sour orange and pickled red onion). You could definitely taste the orange in this but overall it wasn’t my fav.

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Top: Taco de cabrito pastor Norteño (shredded Pipe Dreams goat, marinated in chile pequin and garlic, salsa verde, crema).  Now this taco I loved. The lamb was just really, really good. It had great flavor and was exceedingly tender. I’d definitely get this again.

Bottom: Chapulines (sautéed grasshoppers, shallots, tequila, guacamole). I cannot convey to you in words how good this tasted. It was so good I didn’t even think about the fact I was eating grasshoppers. I was just focused on the citrusy, vinegary marinade. My notes literally say “WHOA!” I brought home leftovers for my kids (because, grasshoppers) and pro tip: according to my four year old if you dip the chapulines in honey they’re even better.

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Overall this was one of the best meals I’ve had so far on my mission. The food was amazing and I definitely had things I couldn’t stop thinking about (I’m looking at you salsa molcajete). But what really set this meal apart was the absolutely phenomenal service. What I thought would just be a casual meal was a full on culinary experience that I will not soon forget. Thank you Chef Omar, Andres, and of course our buddy Alan!!

 

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