By: Amanda Brashears
While most of the city folks are preparing their Halloween costumes, Oyamel is preparing for their Sixth Annual Day of the Dead Celebration. “Dia de los Muertos” is the ancient Mexican tradition of celebrating the dead with food, drink, and festivities.
Lead Bartender Joseph Cleveland, Head Chef Omar Rodriguez, and General Manager Michael Iglesias were on hand to share their food, drinks, and stories. The menu is bold and daring, and the team did a wonderful job of creating an enticing menu.
The Marigold is lovingly mixed with Del Maguey Mezcal Vida, White Creme de Cocoa, Lemon Juice, and D'Aristi Mayan Liquer. Each is topped delicately with tiny marigolds, the traditional Day of the Dead flower. This drink is a light and refreshing way to begin the evening.
The Zombie Apocalypse seemed to be the most popular drink. Made with Azul Centenario Blanco, Sailor Jerry Rum, Papaya, Coconut, Honey, and a nice kick of cardamom, this cocktail is fruity without being overly sweet. It pairs well with the salty chips and delicious, spicy guacamole.
My favorite drink is the Sacrifice. An intriguing blend of House-Infused Turkey El Jimador Reposado, Orange Curacao, Lime Juice, and Mole Bitters. Yes, it is tequila infused with a subtle turkey flavor, and it really worked. The combination of flavors hit the palate on many different levels.
Also offered is the Casa Oaxaza Sour, which is a delightful blend of Wahaka Espadin Joven Mezcal, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice, Peanut, and Farm Egg. The Oaxacan Chocolate-Pumpkin Margarita, a wonderful twist on the traditional margarita that combined El Jimador Blanco, Patron Citronge, Local Sugar Pie Pumpkins, Oaxacan Chocolate, and Mexican Cinnamon. Most intriguing is the Liquer de Atole Negro, a traditional Aztec masa drink made at Oyamel with Del Maguey Mezcal Vida, an assortment of fruits, herbs, nuts, spices, and Oaxacan squid ink.
Chef Rodriquez put a lot of thought into his Day of the Dead menu which began with Carne Apache de Corazon de Venado. This bite consisted of finely chopped raw venison heart with sweet onion, pickled cactus, serrano chile, cilantro and pasilla de Oaxaca chile oil. The balance of flavors in this tasting is outstanding. Each ingredient stands out on its own while still combining to create the perfect bite.
Tamal Mukbil, a classic "Dia de los Muertos" Mayan tamel, is filled with rabbit confit, tomato and habanero, and topped with grape and epazote pico de gallo. The rabbit is delicate and flavorful, pairing well with the slight sweetness of the grapes and heat from the habanero.
The Taco de Camote y Pozole is a fantastic vegetarian option. Local sweet potatoes and hominy sauteed in butter, shallots and achiote with a peanut mole and crispy sweet potato strings combine for a flavorful taco. Another vegetarian item is the Tamal de Cazuela con Pato, a Veracruz-style soft masa with a mole of pumpkin seeds and hoja santa, white onion, radish and cilantro. The flavors of the tamal work well together.
Chalupas de Si Kil Pak with Guajalote is a house-made crispy masa cake with braised turkey legs marinated in achiote with a Mayan sauce of toasted pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, and habanero. The balance of flavors in the chalupa is well executed and very tasty. Also on the menu is Taco de Mollejas de Pollo, which unfortunately I did not get to taste. Crispy chicken gizzards with a chicken liver pate, green olives, red inion, jalapeno, and orange sound like a delightful taco. I did try a duck dish that is not on the menu, and sadly no one seemed to know the name. It is incredibly flavorful and sits on a bed of something creamy and polenta-like.
Overall the Day of the Dead menu at Oyamel is intriguing, flavorful, creative, and thoughtful. The team has put their own hearts and souls into creating a well-balanced and fun menu which is available October 22nd through November 2nd. Reservations Oyamel 401 7th St NW Washington, DC 202-628-1005