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Inventive Mexican Restaurant Poca Madre Has Permanently Closed in Penn Quarter

The adjoining location of Taco Bamba won’t reopen either

A brisket barbacoa taco from Poca Madre made with rare red corn from Oaxaca.
A brisket barbacoa taco from Poca Madre made with rare red corn from Oaxaca.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Poca Madre, the boundary-pushing modern Mexican restaurant in Penn Quarter where chef Victor Albisu presented a high-end alternative to his popular Taco Bamba taquerias, will not reopen in Penn Quarter.

A representative for Albisu confirmed to Eater that both Poca Madre and the adjoining Taco Bamba — the lone D.C. location for the Northern Virginia-based group — have permanently closed. Washingtonian first reported the news Tuesday.

Both restaurants have remained closed since D.C. implemented a dine-in ban March 16 and entered into various phases of reopening protocols during the COVID-19 crisis. Albisu told Eater earlier this summer he didn’t feel it was safe to welcome customers back to his D.C. restaurants. Areas surrounding downtown D.C. have also become very quiet. One gloomy report from the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District says the daytime population of locals, commuters, and visitors in the area has dropped 90 percent from February levels.

Upon opening in June 2018, Poca Madre introduced a menu full of dishes that honored and subverted Mexican traditions at the same time. Under Albisu and chef de cuisine Faiz Ally, the kitchen ground its own masa from heirloom corn, introducing a 12-course taco omakase menu similar to the one at world-renowned Pujol in Mexico City. Ribbons of cuttlefish imitated noodles in a ceviche with a coconut-lime sauce that was a dead ringer for Thai tom kha gai. A shareable platter of slow-roasted duck al pastor came with pineapple habanero salsa. The bar poured from a deep list of mezcal and incorporated ingredients like chapulines (cooked grasshoppers) and brown butter-washed Oaxacan rum into cocktails.

In less than two years of business, Poca Madre earned a spot on the Eater 38 and climbed to the No. 6 spot on Washingtonian’s list of top 100 restaurants. Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema gave Poca Madre a three-star review, naming it one of his top 10 favorite restaurants in his fall 2019 dining guide. Before opening Poca Madre, Albisu operated his South American steakhouse, Del Campo, in the same space.

Poca Madre

Techworld Plaza, , DC 20001 (202) 838-5300 Visit Website

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