Tag Archives: 701

Restaurant Reviews: 701 and Casa Oaxaca

20 Oct

Thanks to Guy for this picture of the table at 701

Our parents were in town this weekend, which of course meant two things: free meals, and a big trip to the grocery store (in a car!). Oh, and of course wonderful conversation with our lovely parents, etc etc. But back to the free meals. The two restaurants I’m writing about today aren’t exactly places I’m going to go every week, but they’re both excellent for special occasions or just a bit of a splurge.

First up, on Friday night, was 701, on Pennsylvania Avenue. We were meeting up with a large assortment of our parents’ friends for dinner, but Roxie and I were assured there would be other “young people” there. (By which is meant there were two other people under thirty.) It was a great evening though—because we were such a large group we were put in a private room, where the conversation could get progressively louder as each new bottle of wine was ordered. As for the food, in general it was excellent. We did some informal surveying around the table, and everyone seemed to be satisfied. Highlights listed included the rabbit rillete appetizer, ham and cheese ravioli, arugula pappardelle, and poussin. (Not to brag, but the waiter said I was the first person to correctly identify a poussin as a small chicken, rather than a fish. All those years of watching Top Chef has finally paid off.) I had the acorn squash and brown butter orecchiette as an appetizer, which seems to have been the only disappointing pasta dish—the pasta was slightly gummy, and the sauce underwhelming. But my venison entrée was excellent—the date puree on the side was an unusual but delicious accompaniment, though I could probably have done without the turnips. Roxie’s enormous steak was also very well cooked, though it had a very salty crust. The accompanying bone marrow mashed potatoes were delicious.

The portions (except for the steak) were reasonable enough that I had room for dessert, all of which were amazing. My chocolate-hazelnut terrine was rich, but delicious, and Roxie’s carrot cake roulade was also good. But everyone at the table agreed the star was the warm walnut cake, if only for the amaretto cream on the side. As an added bonus, all of the dessert portions were generous enough to share around the table.

And then on to something very different, Casa Oaxaca! This was our destination on Saturday night, and though I had gone once before I was even more impressed the second time around. Roxie was working on Saturday, so I went with my boyfriend, Brett, and my parents. The restaurant is located in Adams Morgan, where I really do not go often enough. It’s not terribly far away from me, just awkward to get to, but every time I go I vow that I will return in the near future to explore further, because it’s a great corner of DC that I hardly know at all.

Casa Oaxaca prides itself on offering authentic Mexican food, focusing on the cuisine of the state of Oaxaca. The menu of entrees is simple, mainly offering different meats with various mole sauces, but everything I’ve had there has had complex, deep flavors. We started on Saturday with a variety of appetizers for the table—queso with chorizo, guacamole and salsa, plantain patties, and a chicken and mole tamale. The highlights for me were the plantain patties (because I love anything with plantains in it), and the guacamole and salsa.  The salsa was very spicy, but had rich, earthy flavors—I’m tempted to say at least one of the components had been roasted, though it was hard to tell. Whatever the technique, it was addictive and I had already had a few too many chips by the time our main dishes came.

My parents both got the mole poblano, or chicken in a black mole sauce. For those of you unfamiliar with black mole, it is a rich sauce with chocolate undertones, and they do a superior job with it at Café Oaxaca. I got the Tres Moles, or chicken with red, green, and black mole sauces, because I was interested in comparing the different moles. All were excellent—it’s hard to beat the chocolatey flavor of the black, but the red was very well spiced and balanced, and I could definitely eat whole dish with red mole as well. Brett got the duck in a fig mole sauce, which was one of the more unusual items on the menu, but also very tasty. By the end of the night (thanks to all those chips), I was too full to order dessert, but I guess that only gives me an excuse to go back! I love Mexican food but get so tired of flavorless burritos with excessive amounts of cheese (see: the “Mexican food” offered at my dining hall), so I think Casa Oaxaca has become one of my new favorite DC restaurants.

So there you go, two excellent restaurants to try if you’re looking for something special in DC. I can assure that the next restaurant review will be a little more within the budget of college students, though, as our parents won’t be returning for a while!