Pascual

Washington D.C., United States

+3 more
Price level
Pascual

Expert recommendation

Walking into small corner restaurants deep inside residential neighborhoods was one of many delights during a pre-COVID trip to Buenos Aires. The stand out was a place that was an Italian coffee place in the morning, a sandwich stall for lunch, and a world-class restaurant in the evening. It was also a corner store, and while always busy, it was never packed enough to require a long wait. Many US cities have zoned out experiences like this, requiring you to head to downtown areas to eat out. And that is a shame because, in this post-COVID world where many of us work from home, downtown is usually a painful drive away. Now, on Capitol Hill, which I call home, there are some restaurants, as well as some entertainment hubs, like H Street and 8th Street, but outside them, not much. All that changed with the recently opened Mexican restaurant Pascual. When the news broke of not just a Mexican restaurant blocks away but a Mexican restaurant with the pedigree that Pascual showcases (chef Isabel Coss worked at Pujol), I was admittedly more than excited. As the renovation of a former BBQ place took shape, I regularly took detours to check if they had opened. And now, finally, Pascual is open to the public, a small, simply decorated corner place that makes you feel right at home. This just being the second week, everything looked like it had been around for years, with no mishaps. The first surprise was their mezcal selection, which, to my surprise included Neta, a brand I have enjoyed in Los Angeles many times but hadn’t come across East yet. Instead of picking one of the larger dishes, we opted for several of the smaller plates, while it looked like most people went with the lamb barbacoa. But the guacamole platter with various salsas and pickled vegetables and fruits made us quickly forget our barbacoa envy. While the ceviche was maybe a bit too saucy (yet still highly flavorful), the steak tartar was probably the most unexpected dish. The dish didn’t try to be French; it was an outstanding interpretation of this dish, served with wonderfully warm and thin freshly made tortillas. The taco al Pastor was juicy, though I would have loved to see the pineapple charred a bit for more of a smoky flavor. But seeing this taco served as a single taco was refreshing since, in most places, you have to get three tacos no matter how hungry you are. Lastly, for dessert, we shared a flourless chocolate cake served with a magical green hoja santa sauce, which was another clear highlight of the dinner. While DC’s Mexican restaurant scene is growing by the day, Pascual is in a league of its own. It is the first Mexican restaurant in DC that allows for comparisons to New York and Los Angeles. And it does so in a unique way, being not just a restaurant but also a neighbor. And next time I have to try the barbacoa.

732 Maryland Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, USA

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