I heard Chef Jose Andres speak while attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York.  It was a few months before I was to leave on my externship, and I was very looking forward to hearing what Chef Andres had to say about the restaurant industry, the culinary scene in DC and his outlook on food.  Although I was not planning on doing my externship at a restaurant, hearing Jose speak sparked and inspired something inside of me, and made me wonder whether, perhaps, a restaurant externship could work for me afterall.

On my visit to Washington DC to see my sister, I arranged for a meeting at one of Chef’s restaurants – Zaytinya – with Mike Isabella, executive chef at the time (yes, the same Mike Isabella who was on the Top Chef and Top Chef Masters on Bravo).  The restaurant setting was incredible, and the offering of Turkish, Greek and Lebanese tapas made my mouth water.  While, I decided to do my externship elsewhere (I spent four months in Des Moines, IA working for Cuisine at home, developing recipes and writing) my dinner at Zaytinya was one of most enjoyable and delicious I have had in Washington D.C.

On my recent return to D.C., I was happy to try one of the other Chef Andres’ restaurants – Oyamel.  In fact, Oyamel was a location for my farewell lunch in D.C. along with my sister and one of my dear friends from the CIA.

The lunch started up with quintessential chips and salsa.  If you think that all chips and salsa were created equal, you’re quite mistaken – a lot could and often does go wrong.  This duo, however, was quite perfect.  The chips were thin, not greasy and lightly salted.  The salsa was nice charred and spicy just enough to please everyone at the table.

Since this was afterall our farewell lunch, we decided to have a cocktail.  Olga chose the Oyamel’s Ponche
 Azul blanco, white wine, triple sec and fresh fruit and I selected The Classic – El Jimador blanco, triple sec and fresh lime juice.  Later, during our lunch, our server presented us with a taste of Oyamel José Andrés’ personal favorite with Siembra Azul blanco,  Luxardo Triplum, fresh lime juice and salt “air” – thank you chef!

We couldn’t pass on the guacamole – made directly at the table.  Lunch & a show at once – why not?  I love seeing exactly what goes into my food (that’s one of the benefits of cooking on your own).  This guacamole couldn’t be any easier – avocados, lime, red onion, jalapeno and cilantro.  The extra ingredient – fresh Mexican cheese.  End result – delicious.
For the lunch itself, we all decided to go with the Almuerzo Rapido – a selection of any two antojiotos and one taco for $20.

Albóndigas enchipotladascon queso doble crema
Meatballs in chipotle sauce with crumbled ‘double cream’ cheese and cilantro
I would love these meatballs over polenta on a cold, winter night.  Comforting and flavorful!

Cayo de hacha con pipián de chile pasilla
Seared scallops with a pasilla chile and pumpkin seed sauce, orange segments, pumpkin seed oil and toasted pumpkin seeds
I was honestly blown away by these scallops.  Not only were they beautiful to look at, they were creamy on the inside, tender, and well seared on the outside.  I could easily go for a few more!

Arrachera con salsa molcajete y nopales escabeche
Grilled skirt steak with a sauce of grilled tomatoes, tomatillos, green onions,  cilantro and green chiles, garnished with pickled cactus paddle
This was my first time trying pickled cactus – reminded me of pickled okra and if you know me, I love anything pickled – this was not an exception!

A plate of gourmet tacos: 
Lengua guisada
Braised beef tongue with radishes and a sauce of roasted pasilla chili, tomatoes, onion and garlic
Cochinita pibil con cebolla en escabeche
Yucatan-style pit barbecued pork with pickled red onion and Mexican sour orange
Tacos de hongos
Sautéed seasonal wild mushrooms with garlic and shallots, served with guacamole

Pastel de tres leches con piña
A traditional cake soaked in Coruba rum and three kinds of milk, with a rum and milk foam, 
fresh pineapple gelatin and a pineapple salsa.  Served with  a scoop of dark caramel ice cream.
Jericalla de chocolate con maracuya
Oaxacan chocolate custard with a Mexican origin chocolate sorbet, passion fruit 
gelatin, chocolate and pumpkin seed crumble and fresh passion fruit seed
I definitely loved the presentation and the creativity of the chocolate custard, but the traditional tres leches stole my taste buds.

At the end it was time to go.  Thank you for a delicious lunch and attentive service.  We shall be back!