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Bandolero, Owner Jonathan Umbel's Modern Mexican on M Street in Georgetown in the Old Hook Space - Closed


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Any reports on the first (er, second) pop-up coming of Bandolero at Cleveland Park's former (and maybe future...or maybe not) Tackle Box location? Surely some must have tried the preview $65 tasting menu by now? Went by the planned Georgetown location this week. Doesn't seem too close to opening there but tough to be sure.

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I went last Thursday for opening night with 3 others so we were able to sample basically the entire menu (with the exception of the soup / salads):

Hits:

-Guacamole with pork rinds that they bring out to start with

-Sopes with lamb and chiptole goat cheese

-Pork tacos with habenero mustard sauce (these were my favorite thing we had all night)

-Mole enchiladas

-Steak tacos

-Crab taquitos

Just ok:

-Octopus tacos

-Mahi Mahi tacos - they're breaded, FYI

-Vegetable enchiladas

-Pork Meatballs - these were probably my least favorite...but two at our table really enjoyed them.

Dessert - they were out of the tres leches parfait which everyone at the table wanted to try (and we were a 730 reservation) but I'm sure they've adjusted (the waiter mentioned literally everyone had ordered that). The coconut flan was good if a bit dense and the coconut macaroons would be awesome with some coffee.

There were a few other dishes, but being a week out my memory isn't as fresh as I'd like it to be. The house margaritas were good (particularly if you actually like to taste the tequilla in the margarita like I do). My fiance tried the st. germaine based cocktail and I found it to be overly sweet.

Service was at a pretty relaxed pace, and there were managers walking around asking guests opinion...it also struck me that they didn't pack the place (plenty of seats for later seatings and a ton of seats at the bar when I was there) so they avoided crushing the kitchen the first night.

Overall thoughts: I'd go back and try some things again particularly those pork tacos). A concern was that it wouldn't be enough food but I was pretty stuffed by the end of the meal. I actually think they make great use of the Tackle Box space and wish they'd set up shop there. Once they set up shop in Gtown and move away from the tasting menu I think they'll do quite well as the idea of grabbing a few small plates and a couple of beers at the bar would definitely be appealing to me.

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Dave- you beat me to it. I agree with much of what you said. I was with three friends and we were in agreement on most of what we ate. Our favorites were definitely the sopes and and the suckling pig tacos. Also enjoyed the enchilada roja. I didn't love the mahi mahi either and found the tuna and blue crab taquitos lacking. We were seated upstairs and there were plenty of empty seats. I was not happy to see this as I had emailed City Eats to see if I could add a person and never heard back.

The idea of this pop-up is to give a taste of what's to come, and from that perspective I think it works. The tasting menu provided an opportunity to try some things that I may not have otherwise ordered on a regular a la carte menu (suckling pig tacos for example). I am definitely intrigued enough to try Bandolero when it moves to Georgetown.

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Went last week as well, and enjoyed quite a few of the dishes. The lamb sopes, suckling pork tacos, and the tuna taquitos (very finely diced raw tuna and sweet potato in a tiny fried malanga shell) were the standouts for me.

The misses:

Thought the crab taquitos were heavy on the coconut-- couldn't taste the crab.

The very thick, bland pepita seed dip that was served with the pork rinds was left uneaten.

A salad with an interesting dressing (though too little of it. I think it might have been made with oil from chorizo?) had an odd layer of thinned, pureed avocado on the bottom, which didn't work.

The margaritas were pretty good, especially the one with the mezcal float that I had.

Dessert - they were out of the tres leches parfait which everyone at the table wanted to try (and we were a 730 reservation) but I'm sure they've adjusted (the waiter mentioned literally everyone had ordered that).

Same thing happened to us-- out of the tres leches. The coconut flan was a bit too stiff and had an odd texture, like there was flour in it.

It ended up being a lot of food for the price. I'll definitely be interested in going back when they open, but depending on what they price these dishes at. The small plates thing can make for an expensive meal sometimes.

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Went this past Saturday and follows is the report

1. No Tables althought place was fully staffed and about 10-15 tables empty so sat at bar with Wife

2. White Wine was nice and warm

3. Guac was also nice and warm, and tasted like it was beat by someone who was really angry

4. AC was broken, or simply underpowered. Heard they are fretting at the cost at replacing, I think it is much less than the cost of losing customers for good

5. Lobster taco size is a joke, you can get practically half a lobster at lukes for the same price you get two microscopic tacos, the flavor was good, but for half the price

6. Crab tacos were probably the best thing that I had, not exceptional but at least not offensive

7. Pork Rinds and chips both tasted exceedingly stale, again not trying to be vindictive, I really wanted to like this place, just cant overlook eating a chip and hurting my tooth

8. Enchiillada was okay, nothing to write home about and crema is not a food product people, its a condiment

9. Flauta pork cheek was good, however flauta itself was over cooked

10. Service was passive at best, abrasive at worst

All in all fits right into Georgetowns mix of overpriced mediocre restaurants. Not ever going back, I'd rather be hungry.

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Dear Chef Isabella,

If you are going to charge $6 for six yuca fries, can you please put that profit into an air conditioner that works?

Thanks,

Tony

PS: With that being said, I quite enjoyed our meal at Bandolero last night. I will agree with others that the pricing seems to be a bit high, as evidenced by my first sentence, but other than the absurd price on the yuca fries, I felt that the other five dishes that we ordered were worth the money. Would I have wanted to pay a dollar or two less for each dish? Of course, but I also have to remind myself that this is a restaurant in Georgetown with people literally lined up out the door to walk inside, so the prices were to be expected. Sopes were great, suckling pig tacos, nachos and short ribs were very good, pork meatballs were dry and the aforementioned yuca fries were overpriced. Drinks (five total) were solid across the board, with their version of an old fashioned being my favorite and one of the better drinks I have had this year. Our server was kind of a douche, but the runners were very nice and fun to talk to. Eye candy, as always, was an added bonus.

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We went to Bandolero for an early dinner tonight, with few-to-no expectations -- we ended up in Georgetown by pure circumstance, indulging an urge to just hop on the next bus we saw. We were there around five (pre-movie, another last minute decision, sense a pattern?) so noise wasn't a big issue.

Our dinner was nice. Not amazing, but nice. Price points felt high, particularly for the shrimp cocktail, which was a bit meager for $12, and the beet salad, which featured a pepita "puree" that looked like guacamole and tasted weirdly funky. The mahi-mahi tacos looked like fish sticks wrapped in tortillas but were surprisingly piquant. The leek flavor was missing in the empanada, but it was otherwise well made and rich. The best dish was definitely the suckling pig tacos, though the habanero wasn't evident at all. Your mileage may vary; my sister calls me a "crazy spice cyborg."

I don't know that I'd run back to Bandolero, but as a restaurant that had seats and food, at a moment when we needed seats and food, it made us quite happy.

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Yes, Washingtonian has a piece out about it, too.

Fortunately, I didn't have to change the title of this post. Nothing against Mike, but Tony Starr is, and always has been, the Chef of Bandolero.

And boy oh boy the gossip I could tell.

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You still recommend this restaurant (which I thought was an overpriced shit-show).  How does this affect that recommendation?

The loss of (or the existence of) an absentee chef rarely affects a recommendation - someone like Westermann or Ducasse might be an exception. Right now, Bandolero is ranked 9th in Georgetown, barely clinging on to Italic, and that's *before* all the recent turnover. I haven't been back in many months; my next visit will weigh heavily. Why will it weigh so heavily?

I've been to Bandolero with Matt twice, and we both agreed it was some of the best Mexican-inspired food in the DC area, both of us rating it superior to the (also Italic) Alegria where we've both been to about 3-4 times - how do you feel they compare? What does affect the rating is that Bandolero lost not only Isabella as Absentee Chef Du Jour, but also his (previous?) partner Steve Uhr, now Beverage Manager at Le Diplomate, and also opening GM Jennifer Lucy, formerly of Central, now GM at Ashok Bajaj's NoPa. So, given those unreported facts (unreported by any other media outlet in this town, because nobody thinks enough to connect the dots), how do *you* feel? One thing is most likely true: it probably hasn't gotten any better, given Jonathan Umbel's track record.

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