This weekend it kind of seemed like the U.S. had badly wronged Mother Nature, no? The East Coast had derecho, Colorado remained submerged in a land on fire, while Florida battled flood waters. I think it’s Mother Nature’s way of asking serious penance for our part in climate change.
David and I got off pretty easy–we removed some bunches of limbs and leaves from under our car and drove around the neighborhood to survey the damage–trees on cars, or lain entirely across roads. The Home Depot operating on a back-up generator. Eerily quiet Saturday morning as many folks woke up not to alarm clocks, but to a blinking “low battery” on their cell phones.
Our friend Justin came over, escaping the interminable heat of his powerless apartment. Our food lay unspoiled in the fridge, bidding us not to stay in and gobble it down, but to venture out and discover how we might otherwise fill the void.
We sought out El Chucho, a restaurant that opened Friday night, hoping to buoy their faith that even if everyone else was looking for cooler temps, we would take advantage of their roof deck. Boy, were we wrong. Despite not a bit of air conditioning, the place was packed when we arrived and we scored the last seat on the roof deck.
Our waiter arrives and at first he has no drink suggestions. No dinner suggestions either–apparently he’s missed both tasting nights, he says. “Oh, you should try to Blue Hawaiian ($10), I hear people say it’s the best.” And friends, it is.
El Chucho is…gourmet Mexican-Asian tapas? No, not exactly.
The taco are small–you get two, 3-inch round corn tortillas for $5-$6–and their flavors are interesting: Miso-marinated steak, beef chitterlings, adobo marinated pork and smoked tecate can chicken. My dinner companions were quiet as they ate and spoke only to tell me that they wished the tacos had two things: cheese and extra salsa. Oh, and if they sold the salsa in jars they’d pick up some of that to take home.
I sampled the Torta de Huazontle ($11)–an enormous sandwich with a broccolini-like green battered in egg, smeared with a black bean spread, and topped with Mexican-kimchi (?) and queso fresco. The bread was buttery, the kimchi deliciously vinegary. The huazontle was a surprising new flavor that I didn’t hate, and I was enormously full.
The guac arrives with a sparse number of chips ($8), and with cucumber and radish on top. It’s simplicity was disappointing. Meanwhile, the drinks are heavenly. I hunker down with a cold Mexican beer, my companions have a sophisticated frozen margarita, and that Blue Hawaiian…yum.
We meet the owner-partners–Jackie Greenbaum and Gordon Banks–because they not only served our dinner, but took us to our seats. I love that they love the neighborhood and I want desperately for them to open a spot like this in AdMo. Does it fill the void for Mexican food in the District? I don’t know, but it sure ain’t Chipotle.