In addition to focusing on unique Mexican fare, restaurateur Victor Albisu’s breathtaking new restaurant Poca Madre is mixing drinks fueled by more than 90 rare mezcals — including spirits infused with cannabis and mole.
The Penn Quarter newcomer, opening tonight, will get the party started right away by greeting customers with a tension-reliever. “Everyone gets a welcome drink,” says Michael Iglesias, Poca Madre’s restaurant director. “No matter what your day was like you have something on your palate. It eases you into the experience.” One prospective mood enhancer: the Wizard of Oax, a take on a mai tai, combining mezcal and Oaxacan rum with orgeat syrup made from cantaloupe seeds.
Iglesias, an Oyamel alum who later ran Oakland’s famed Mexican eatery Calavera — and collected key mezcal contacts along the way — tells Eater he was on his way back to San Francisco this year when Albisu swooped in and asked him to helm the new Penn Quarter bar with Amin Seddiq.
“We are carrying mezcals that speak to us,” says Iglesias, adding that travels to Mexico with Albisu added inspiration.
Poca Madre’s shelves are stocked with bottles from Erick Rodriguez’s Almamezcaleria line. There’s a mezcal that tastes like “beautiful, delicate cannabis chartreuse,” says Iglesias, who still co-owns Calavera. Some hail from tiny production labels, like the Sentidos Pechuga de Mole Poblano (bottle 131 of 193), which is flavored by the cooked chicken and mole poblano added at the distillery. Patrons can take things to another level by sipping the collected mezcals out of hollowed-out gourds or ceramic cups made by Oaxaca-based artist Omar Hernandez.
Meanwhile, the dining experience is also designed with fun in mind. Black T-shirt-wearing waiters, for instance, will urge diners to finish off the rest of their shrimp and cuttlefish ceviche dish with a mezcal shot drizzled over it at the end.
Featured offerings on the opening menu include: a gourmet burrito marrying wagyu beef, lobster, and caviar; fried chicken accompanied by chile-agave syrup; an al pastor-style roasted duck freshened with pineapple; and a tomahawk rib-eye flanked by bone marrow.
Albisu, who entered the Mexican arena with street food-centric Taco Bamba, says he looks up to smaller D.C. restaurants that have put their stamps on different cuisines — listing Middle Eastern grill Maydan and critically acclaimed Asian restaurant Himitsu as bright spots in the local dining landscape.
“I’m touched by the way food has been evolving in the city. We feel like Poca will have its place, hopefully,” he says.
Status: Projected to open at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 19. 777 Eye Street NW; website.
Scroll down to see the opening menus and photos of some of the featured dishes and drinks:
- Penn Quarter’s Poca Madre Will Transport Diners to an Oaxacan Oasis Starting June 19 [EDC]
- The Most Anticipated Restaurants in D.C., Summer 2018 [EDC]
- Mexican Newcomer Poca Madre Is Showcasing Rare Chiles [EDC]
- Restaurateur Victor Albisu Is Replacing Del Campo With Two Mexican Restaurants [EDC]
- D.C.’s Now Permanent Taco Bamba Opens April 6 [EDC]