All words: Riley Croghan // All Photos: Cesar Olivares
Boveda is a small restaurant tucked within the Westin Georgetown on a block that isn’t quite Georgetown, Dupont, or Foggy Bottom, but within easy reach of all those boozy neighborhoods. You might not stumble upon it accidentally, but executive chef Carlos Delgado has created a competent menu that makes it a place well worth seeking out. The restaurant wasn’t packed when I visited, but Carlos was a flurry of energy, cranking out a balanced variety of delicious latin dishes.
I tried samples of almost everything on the menu, including some dishes and drinks still under development, to the extent that my stomach could take. I was frequently wowed and only once left underwhelmed—and that was with a battered-fish taco not officially on the menu yet, so I can hardly fault it. With that in mind, then, a recounting of some of the true standouts:
A good place to start, as always, is the drinks. Mixologist Heriberto Casasanero, who studied under the tutelage of Derek Brown of The Passenger and Jon Arroyo of Founding Farmers, is charismatic and enthusiastic about the work he does. The labors of his love are evident in the shelves behind the bar, stuffed with a miniature laboratory of works-in-progress—here a glass skull full of his own bacon rye whiskey concoction, there a mini cask slowly aging the mixture for a negroni.
The most polished drinks are the three suggested by the menu—the papaya pisco sour, apple mojito, and caipirinha. Though any fruity twist on a drink runs the risk of being a saccharine mess, these three are generally balanced between sweet, savory, and bitter. The apple mojito is clean and crisp tasting—think biting into a granny smith rather than eating an apple jolly rancher, thank god. And the pisco sour, a light, frothy drink dolloped with a drop of aromatic bitters, is crisp and lightly bitter.
Heriberto also whipped up an as-yet unnamed drink (still in development) featuring that bacon rye whiskey and dashes of black walnut bitters, chocolate mole, and sweet vermouth. The manliness-in-a-cup cocktail tastes deep and smoky, and the spicy-smoky-dark chocolate taste matches incredibly with any mole dish. To that end, the best possible pairing was that drink along side the pollo en mole, a leg of chicken confit with the meat falling off the bone, smothered in chocolatey dark mole sauce, with plantains on the side for a touch of sweetness. That pairing alone was enough to convince me to come back.
The lions share of the rest of the dishes are light, spicy, and citrusy, and pair terrifically with any of the three standard drinks on the menu. The best exemplar of that is the flounder. The lime marinade that “cooks” the fish will, by its very nature, have a strong citrus bite to it, which here is tempered with equally aggressive raw red onions and spicy aji; the resulting flavor is fresh and balanced and reminiscent somehow of a fresh pico de gallo salsa.
There’s also a good variety of small tacos. The chicharron, braised pork belly, was my favorite, with the single cut of savory fatty meat evened out with an apple chili and a mild-briny pickled daikon. The carnitas taco was rich, dark and spicy.
Finally, I tried a decadent desert of a twist of white chocolate caramel and jalapeno ice cream, dusted with a powder of chocolate crumbs. The dish was fairly rich considering the meal that proceeded it, but it shares attributes with the best plates of the night– a subtle sweetness mixed with a mild spice to create desert heaven.
There were other dishes that didn’t make the final write up, but all are worthy of some delicious food porn, which I’ll leave you with now: