A few weeks back I had the pleasure of my first experience at Oyamel, the wildly colorful, Mexican inspired brainchild of Chef José Andrés (you may remember our recent jaunts at his Zaytinya and Beefsteak), under the direction of head chef Colin King. Celebrating seasonality, the integrity of individual ingredients, and Mexican festival culture, this Penn Quarter hotspot’s extensive street food style menu features small plate antojitos, ceviches and tacos, plus unique margaritas, wines, tequilas, and naturally flavored fresh fruit agua frescas.
With menu items ranging from Chilorio de Res – shredded beef braised tacos in a rich pasilla sauce- to Los Cayos Jarochos – seared scallops with crispy plantain- Oyamel also offers an Allergy Friendly Menu, spotlighting gluten, shellfish, nut, and diary free menu items as well as those specifically vegetarian or vegan friendly. I found myself most drawn to their Verduras and Ensaladas -vegetables and salads- sections of the menu, headlining a considerable amount of locally sourced, seasonal, and plant based dining options. Diving right into a bowl of their green tomatillo and serrano chile guacamole (complete with hand-made corn tortillas for dunking), I was sure to order Oyamel’s fresh spring salad with baby squash in a salsa verde and lime dressing as well as their Huatape de Hongos, featuring ultra savory locally foraged mushrooms in a vibrant, herbaceous, and satisfyingly light cilantro based masa sauce (recipe below). Be sure to stop in for their late night menu (beginning around 10pm) and snag a frijoles refritos taco with salsa chiltamate – although they do lack that satisfying crunch, I’m a sucker for a secret menu. Tables typically order 2-3 plates per diner, ranging from $4-$15 each.
Oyamel’s Huatape de Hongos [makes 4 servings]
A Note from Oyamel: locally foraged mushrooms sautéed and served over an herbaceous masa sauce of cilantro, epazote and jalapeños
For the Mushroom Stock [makes 4 cups]
½ volume ounce blended oil
1 cup diced Spanish onion
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon black peppercorn
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups stems of seasonal mushrooms (chanterelles, beech, crimini, oyster of trumpets), caps reserved for later use
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6 cups water
½ cup dried shiitake mushrooms, cleaned
Heat the blended oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat and add the onions, garlic and spices. Sweat until the onions are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the onions from pot and set aside.
Increase the heat to high and add the mushrooms. Sear until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and return the onions and spices. Add the thyme and sweat together for 5 minutes. Add the dried shiitake mushrooms and water and simmer for one hour.
For the Huatape Sauce [makes 1 quart]
2 bunches green onions, roughly chopped
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
½ head iceberg lettuce
½ bunch cilantro
1 cup epazote
1 cup yellow masa
4 cups mushroom stock (see above recipe)
1 tablespoon blended oil
Heat the oil in a small stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and lightly toast until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the onion, jalapeño and scallion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.
In a blender, combine the masa with the mushroom stock and blend. Deglaze the onions with the masa mixture and cook until thickened, about 15 minutes. Fold the iceberg lettuce and herbs into the thickened soup. Remove soup and when cool enough to handle, blend together.
For the Mushrooms
4 cups reserved mushroom caps
¼ cup thinly sliced shallot
1 tablespoon thinly sliced epazote
Salt, to taste
Oil, as needed
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they release their liquids and are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the shallot and epazote and cook for 2 minutes more. Season with salt, to taste, and remove from heat.
Plate ½ cup of the huatepe sauce onto 4 plates and top each with 1 cup of the sautéed mushrooms.
Oyamel is located at: 401 7th St. NW, Washington, DC 20004, www.oyamel.com