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Casa Oaxaca, Basement Mexican on 18th Street in SW Adams Morgan - Closed Fri Jan 30, 2015


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It's open. We like it.
This actually sounds like it may be a true Mexican restaurant! I am tired of having to go down to Homestead or San Antonio to get decent Mexican! Did they have the fried crispy grasshoppers? I haven't ever been able to eat one of those! Can you give us the stats here on DR.com? Thanks Shoeman.
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This actually sounds like it may be a true Mexican restaurant! I am tired of having to go down to Homestead or San Antonio to get decent Mexican! Did they have the fried crispy grasshoppers? I haven't ever been able to eat one of those! Can you give us the stats here on DR.com? Thanks Shoeman.

I haven't spent enough time eating in Mexico to judge CO's authenticity, but I'm sure Stephen Colbert -- or Esteban Colberto -- would find it chock full of "Mexico-ness." It feels Mexican in the gut. Especially after a couple of Micheladas.

The grasshopper dish is "Oaxacan cheese flambeed with guajillo sauce and grasshoppers served with fresh handmade tortillas." Not sure if that implies frying or not.

Stats (?) 2106 18th St. NW Washington, DC 202/387-2272

Did you happen to notice the hours?
Did not, but I'll walk by tomorrow and take note.
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was pleasantly surprised by the food here. everything we had was well executed, though portions can be a bit small.

no wine list. just "merlot and chardonnay by the glass". which just seems dumb on all sorts of levels when you have $20 entrees--people would buy it if you sold it.

that they included the pronunciation of 'oaxaca' IN THEIR LOGO (which appears on their uniforms, awning, and menus) is annoyingly patronizing.

i'll probably go back. i'd be much more inclined, however, if they got some decent wines. maybe i should ask about corkage.

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that they included the pronunciation of 'oaxaca' IN THEIR LOGO (which appears on their uniforms, awning, and menus) is annoyingly patronizing.
Sad, but not a surprise if you remember the URL for their place in Arlington: waheeyo.com

Looking forward to checking them out. Has bonus points already because of its AM location (not way out here).

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was pleasantly surprised by the food here. everything we had was well executed, though portions can be a bit small.

no wine list. just "merlot and chardonnay by the glass". which just seems dumb on all sorts of levels when you have $20 entrees--people would buy it if you sold it.

that they included the pronunciation of 'oaxaca' IN THEIR LOGO (which appears on their uniforms, awning, and menus) is annoyingly patronizing.

i'll probably go back. i'd be much more inclined, however, if they got some decent wines. maybe i should ask about corkage.

You should have come in earlier -- we drank all the Chilean Cabernet and Crianza last night, while passing emphatically on the Merlot. And something white, too, with a screw top, from South America. Sorry, dude. ;)

I actually think that beer works just as well or better better than any wine a Mexican restaurant is likely to stock. Googling "vineyards of Oaxaca" yields no matches, so I'm guessing it's not a traditional part of Oaxacan cuisine. May as well play to their strengths -- I don't hunt for Italian wines in French restaurants.

On the other hand, the whole "what wine goes with flaming cheese and grasshoppers?" question is an intriguing one. :blink: And, my impression as they rounded up random bottles of red wine from the office, was that they were trying to put together a list of some type but were still in the "random samples from distributors" phase, so conditions may improve.

And I'm betting that even among us sophisto DC types, four out of five can' t can't pronounce Oaxaca without a hint. I'm still trying to figure out how to pronounce that Grateful Dead album of similar name. I can usually find other things to feel patronized about than the embroidery on my server's shirt.

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We dropped by for dinner last night and were impressed. Still some service issues to be worked out, but the food is good. I personally could care less about the wine; I don't think I've ever had a glass of wine with Mexican food in my life. The well made micheladas make it a moot point anyway. The price point is about right (maybe a touch too high for some of the entrees, but to be expected in the neighborhood). We both had entrees, two drinks apiece, and shared and app: $66 before tax and tip

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the meal begins with a plate of jicama sticks under a big dancing botero painting, ghost liquor glasses on the floor, the female partner owning surprisingly graceful fingers for the land of cartoon plump. spiced with chili powder, salt and lime juice, these are moist and crunchy but a little like starting out a meal with celery. i would have preferred fried yucca.

the three triangular huitlacoche ravioli are worth checking out. though the pasta is on the thick side, it remains supple and the fillings are delicious -- the black corn rot sooty and herbal, almost verging on mint, with a few small beans and corn kernels adding their own brief notes -- in a squash blossom sauce for sopping up.

the red snapper ceviche is light on the star ingredient, the fish a bit drowned in a mold of diced pineapple, jicama and onion with shredded cucumber streamers and light chili fire and cilantro playing background notes. still, the taste is fresh and good and the presentation an improvement over the ceviche the last time we ordered it at guajillo, which turns fast enough into a fished out pond of vegetable juice.

the chipotle tartar on the pescado tacos is smooth but as pale in taste as it is in color, and the turbot, while expertly fried to a pleasing crunch, has no depth of flavor and there is no point in going looking for it with a squeeze of lime. at the very least, salt would be an improvement.

moles set the theme for the entrees, and the chicken with mole was good and maybe would even be exciting if this were the first time you were having mole.

at the end of the meal, a hockey-puck portion of flan is enough for two to share and after they get finished with it enough for the entire team. starchy and leaden, tasting eggless, this is one of the worst desserts i have encountered in some time.

margaritas and sangria are weak. two of either is not enough to feel sufficiently fortified to round up some people at the bar for a scavenger hunt up and down 18th street for the head of alfredo garcia. however, there is a lengthy list of tequilas, maybe some sangrita to go with them, and that's how i'm flying next time.

the restaurant is small, with tomato red walls and a giant sombrero-shaped swirl of color on one wall reminiscent of kenneth noland and the washington color school. since we barged into the place without taking a good look outside, it was confusing to find two floors, with two entrances from the street, the bar on the level below the sidewalk.

during our fast-paced meal, we were told at least twice that the chef is from mexico. i believe it, and i'm definitely heading back to sample more of the appetizers. the house of oaxaca is friendly and has a lot going for it, including the cooking. but my advice to the kitchen would be to start cooking like you're cooking for mexicans.

a full dinner for two, including high tax and generous tip: $110.

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the meal begins with a plate of jicama sticks [snip]

spiced with chili powder, salt and lime juice, these are moist and crunchy but a little like starting out a meal with celery. i would have preferred fried yucca.

If you are looking for traditional Mexican food, learn to love jicama with lime juice and chile powder. It is a popular Mexican botana, or cocktail-type snack. Fried yuca, which is manioc, is found more often in Peruvian and Cuban restaurants.

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If you are looking for traditional Mexican food, learn to love jicama with lime juice and chile powder. It is a popular Mexican botana, or cocktail-type snack. Fried yuca, which is manioc, is found more often in Peruvian and Cuban restaurants.

from the finger food department, i don't recall usually starting meals in mexico with jicama, although i have never been to oaxaca. how about starting with chips and salsa?

also, we had some good avocado, something i left out.

and the flan recipe is a bit mysterious to me. our waitress said it was really good, and she may have meant it. I remember great flan in mexico -- eggy and runny -- the opposite of what is being served here. are you aware of parts of mexico that lean toward cakey flan? i sense there is authenticity behind their flan, but i don't know where it is coming from.

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and the flan recipe is a bit mysterious to me. our waitress said it was really good, and she may have meant it. I remember great flan in mexico -- eggy and runny -- the opposite of what is being served here. are you aware of parts of mexico that lean toward cakey flan? i sense there is authenticity behind their flan, but i don't know where it is coming from.
We found the flan leaden as well. We spoke with the chef and he said he is experimenting with the recipe. Currently he is using rice-based horchata drink mix as a flavoring agent. I think that he will have a hard time lightening that up. He took our gentle criticism graciously.

The bread pudding-like dessert was the stand out among the 3 that I tasted - the third being the tiramisu.

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High points: lively and flavorful chicken tres moles, saltalicious Michelada con salsa inglesa. Low points: an unpleasantly gristly filet mignon w/Oaxacan cheese, and the general feeling that almost $20/entree is too steep. Of the three little quesadillas on the app plate, two (carnitas and huitlacoche) were excellent, and one (peppers/cheese) was nondescript.

I think we'll go back, but it won't be on the regular rotation just yet. More exploration through the moles is probably in order before we can really figure out if the price is right.

I ate most of the jicama. My dining companion took one bite and just glared at it balefully the rest of the time. They're big squared-off sticks and ours were only seasoned near the center, so eating one went: crispwater, crispwater, heyburnsaltlimewoo, crispwater.

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** from Tom, although the first 3/4 of the review reads much better than that. But no mention of the michelada menu! That's a glaring oversight in my book; it's not as if you often see them around here at all, not to mention in such variety, and it is definitely worth a blurb.
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So, how many stars did you give it?
We very presciently decided that Sietsema would give it 2, max. I think that's about right. While I'm perfectly happy to have this place so close to home, I haven't tried enough of the food to suggest that it is even remotely a "destination" place, except for people who long for this type of regional Mexican food. It certainly isn't Tex-Mex, as I define that, but I look forward to trying the tacos and the moles. (I was dressed-up to go to Blues Alley to hear cucas87's brother and didn't want to risk dripping any finger food on my dress .) I ordered the snapper and liked it better than TS did, but would rather try something else.

We shared an appetizer, which was cut into four pieces and would be nice to share with more people. I get the impression that most of their appetizers are shareable. I think the LAMEDUCKS need to do an outing here.

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A few friends visited tonight to supplement my exploration of the michelada. I ended up getting a plain ol' chelada because even plain ol' tomato juice is a bit revolting to me. The bartender was playing around and did offer me a sip of one made with Clamato. It was interesting to say the least and very, very spicy. It really lingered on my lips. The clam scent and taste was... just odd. I guess one has to approach it with the mindset of drinking a soup rather than an actual drink. But I can see why someone might like it.

We ordered the plantains with black beans. These were quite like empanadas and probably my favorite item of the meal. We also ordered kekas - blue corn tortillas with carnitas which came with huitlecoche and two other types of toppings. Tasty, but not extraordinary. The same would apply to the somewhat dry and bland carnitas tacos we ordered (which I now realize is a bit of a duplication and we should have gotten something else). We had the grasshopper tacos. We were disappointed that there weren't whole grasshoppers, but the sauce was not bad. Our second favorite dish was the tres moles with chicken. Green, yellow and black moles. The black was slightly sweet and chocolatey - just lovely and rich. The other ones I didn't get enough of a taste of to really judge, but the chicken was nice and tender.

Overall though, thumbs up. Four us of got out with drinks for about $120 including tip.

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A few friends visited tonight to supplement my exploration of the michelada.

Say hello next time. ;)

We also ordered kekas - blue corn tortillas with carnitas which came with huitlecoche and two other types of toppings. Tasty, but not extraordinary.

Agreed. Not bad, but disappointing given Tom's glowing description, and definitely not "thin as crepes."

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I hit Casa Oaxaca with a native Guadalajarian Friday...needless to say I let her do all the ordering since this gringo No hablo de Spanish.

It's a nice place, taking Mexican beyond the store front mom and pop joints that most DC "Mexican" places tend to be. Two levels, upstairs is a fairly traditional looking dining room, downstairs has a long bar and a more cantina feel to it.

We begged and pleaded until we were given a small dish of the grasshoppers, which were salty and limey and tasty.

We started with the Ravioli de Huitlacoche (Huitlacoche ravioli in a squash blossom and poblano sauce). I had never had huitlacoche before, comparasions to truffles were apt, but much less pungent. This was a tasty dish in a messy explosion on a plate kind of way.

Next we had the Mole Negro Oaxaqueí±o (Black mole from Oaxaca, served over chicken breast), which we both thought was rather disappointing. I've never had real mole before, and hoped this would be the transcendent experience one dreams of while reading about the labor involved in making a real mole. This was kinda bland. The chef even admitted that what they serve in the dining room was a dumbed down version, the kitchen staff spices it up for themselves. We suggested that they don't dumb it down for the Americans. He seemed to take that to heart.

We also ordered Las Deliciosas Carnitas Tacos (Tender pork in Guajillo and garlic sauce), which were pretty kick ass. Three heaping tacos with shredded pork.

Both of us were disappointed by the rice and beans, the rice tasted like Uncle Ben's.

Dinner was finished off with some very tasty flan.

Overall I get the impression that this will be one of those places where you learn to love a handful of dishes that you end up ordering over and over again. The tequila was great and I'd definitely order the tacos again. Hopefully they will learn that when the gringos come we want the stuff the kitchen staff is eating and not the dumbed down stuff they think we should be eating.

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Went last night for the second time, but first time eating (just had micheladas the first time). Went with a Negra Modelo Chelada this time, much easier to drink than the over-tabasco'd version I had on my first visit, and the dark beer helped too. They were out of grasshoppers, so we split the ravioli to start. Rich, creamy, and very much an explosion on a plate. For main I had the skirt steak that Sietsema mentioned in his review: it was pretty tasty. Generous with the salt/pepper, thin-cut skirt steak, with the trio of sides that weren't that great (the beans were good, but the rice was sorta meh, and the gauc was thin and chunky and lacking in rich avocado flavor). Left completely stuffed, even though I didn't eat much of the rice/beans. I think this might be the sort of place where the apps outshine most of the mains, but I plan on going back to try some of the moles to hopefully prove myself wrong. Also, grasshoppers.

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I went last night and didn't think Casa Oaxaca was anything special. I liked my chelada (I had both the regular with salt and lime, and the bloody mary version which I preferred), but found the carnitas tacos bland. Some spicy salsa, delivered upon request, helped a little. My mole-loving friend pronounced his dish "not good." The bite I had featured tender chicken, but not tons of flavor in the mole. I haven't many mole dishes, though, so I'm not prepared to pass judgment just because my friend didn't like it.

We ate downstairs in the rather steamy bar area. Does anyone else really dislike the yellow lights?

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Stopped in here on Friday night for post-happy hour dinner, sat in the (very noisy) downstairs section. Bob had Negra Modelo, I opted for the rather sweet sangria, and the kitchen gave us a small tostada amuse, the ingredients of which I can't recall. The plantains stuffed with black beans were a nice enough appetizer, though the sweet plantain exterior drowned out what little flavor the filling had. Bob's arrachera tacos--three smallish soft tacos with a beef and vegetable filling struck me as bland, while I went for the pollo relleno with white mole--chicken stuffed with spinach, in a white chocolate-almond sauce. The chicken was sliced in five more or less bite-size pieces, and the sauce was overall quite mild, with just a hint of spice kick. Rice and beans were so-so, and small portions also. Service was fine overall, despite a large birthday gathering just behind us. But overall I found the food surprisingly flavorless and not a particularly good value. This place strikes me as maybe being an underachiever, with a menu that probably sounds better than it tastes--nothing bad, mind you, but just sort of head-scratchingly dull.

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We ate here last night and had a great time. We loved the black mole, which seems to have had more flavor/spice than others have experienced, and Tripewriter enjoyed the grasshoppers. We also shared some spiced shrimp that made me think I might like shrimp after all. Service was friendly, food was good, atmosphere was very relaxing. Casa Oaxaca is officially on our list :rolleyes:

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