Thursday, April 2, 2009

Quick Bites Hits the Road: Grasshopper Tacos at DC's Oyamel

Today's posting is authored by occasional contributor Jeff. If you're interested in guest blogging on the site, email me at

Following a recent business trip to the cultural mecca that is Martinsburg, West Virginia, I managed to squeeze in a weekend visit to one of my old stomping grounds, Washington, DC. No longer the culinary wasteland it once was, the DC restaurant scene has moved past stuffy, white-linen tablecloth restaurants filled with lobbyists, lawyers and politicians to trendy bistros abuzz with energy, serving top notch cuisine to lobbyists, lawyers and politicians.

Among the new wave of cool to hit DC in recent years is Oyamel, a Mexican restaurant in downtown DC that opened to some acclaim in 2007. While a cool, upscale and somewhat scene-y Mexican restaurant à la Rosa Mexicano is nothing to blog home about these days, one dish in particular caught my attention: chapulines, a/k/a grasshopper tacos. Described on the menu as a “legendary Oaxacan speciality” consisting of sautéed grasshoppers, shallots, garlic and tequila, they were simply too intriguing for this adventurous eater to pass up.

I’ve had all manner of protein, be it fish, fowl, glands, organs, snails, wild game, etc., but I haven’t intentionally eaten insects since that time I took a dare in second grade. I wasn’t quite sure if I was in for a treat or about to do my best impression of an attention-starved reality show contestant, but fortified by two of Oyamel’s salt foam-topped, Patron Citronge-spiked house margaritas, I placed my order and anxiously awaited my buggy prize.

When the waiter arrived with the tacos, I was a little relieved and a little disappointed to see that the tacos looked not unlike a typical barbequed pork or braised beef taco. The taste, however, was quite different – and delicious. Saltiness and sweetness were perfectly balanced, and the blend of tender grasshopper and shallots made for a very pleasing dish. And no, it didn’t taste like chicken.

Along with the tacos, my dining companions and I shared codoroniz con salsa, or grilled quail with a toasted pumpkin seed, cilantro, tomato and habanero chile sauce; albóndigas enchipotladas, or meatballs in chipotle sauce; and an assortment of more traditional--though no less tasty--tacos.

Though the meatballs were nothing special, the quail was tender and flavorful. Overall, the meal, the drinks and even the guacamole and chips we started with were first rate. Though I no doubt left impressed with the novelty of having eaten bugs, I would recommend Oyamel even to those who prefer their grasshoppers to be of the fudge cookie variety.

Oyamel, 401 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC

Oyamel on Urbanspoon



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