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First Look: Oyamel’s New Bar
June 12, 2013 | 10:30AM

With what feels like 10 new restaurants popping up in D.C. every day, sometimes it’s nice to see a familiar face–especially if that face/menu/haunt never gets old. Perhaps it’s this, that perfect balance of aesthetic both visual and flavorful, or maybe the gold standard of culinary creativity that always keeps us coming back to José Andrés (let’s face it, it’s all of the above) and why we could not wait to see Oyamel‘s new wrap-around bar and expansion.

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Walk through that same front door and get a view of the restaurant as you know it, with its familiar vibrant, butterfly-clad design we could all recognize anywhere; look to the left and you’ll see the same motif spread through projector-screen booths, a new reservation-only circular table and mirror image of the spot’s original bar. Though the expansion doesn’t open until Friday, the space feels more welcoming already with the hostess stand placed to the entrance’s left, forming more of a foyer and lounge space for guests.

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The renovation literally doubles Oyamel’s bar and adds a total of 42 seats, as well as provides entertainment and intimacy. The booths, partitioned with white screens, will get quite a show from projectors embedded in the walls. Though we’re told Andrés is still deciding on the projections, nature scenes or photos of Mexico are distinct possibilities.

The space also incorporates local designers like Hapstak and Demetriou, the Georgetown-based firm that helped to realize Andrés vision for the space, and Earl Brown, the District designer who crafted those walnut wood drum tables. The dining tables, in fact, hail from local favorites Good Wood and forget outsourcing the stunning girl in the room’s mural; that face you see is D.C. model Julie Zeger.

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The additional 900 square feet are necessary when you’re one of Penn Quarter’s most popular restaurants, though even more excitingly, the bar space is necessary when you’re reinvigorating and promoting an already stellar cocktail program. Juan Coronado–ThinkFoodGroup’s fearless cocktail leader–is interested in introducing more mezcal and tequila into their menu, which, by the way, Oyamel is certified to serve by the Mexican government itself. (The team is also in the midst of specialized mescal training in Oaxaca, no big deal.) We’re also told there will be an array of new cocktails and bar bites this fall, keeping us all on the edge of our seats for months to come.

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