We recently over stuffed ourselves at Mike Isabella's second DC restaurant Bandolero. Similar to our night at Graffiato we went with the tasting menu to ensure a little of everything. We started with La Cata a smathering of dips including guacamole, and totopos — tortilla chips dressed with cold ranchera salsa and served with a side of crem. The third sauce sikil pak -- pumpkin seed, jalapeno, and orange dipping sauce with fresh pomegranate seeds on top-- was by far the most impressive and tasty sauce. The totopos packed some heat, but just slightly fell flat on the execution for us...too soggy to be delicious.
The next course was "ceviche" or Isabella's take on it. Three different taquitos, tuna, blue crab, and red snapper. The tuna was delicious. The flavors paired with the fresh fish were incredibly refreshing. The blue crab was a little too salty for our group's liking, but I liked the blue corn taco it was in.
Then came the tacos course. We were served the Mahi Mahi, BBQ chicken, and suckling pig. I really liked the Mahi Mahi, the chipolte aoli was a perfect accompaniment. The BBQ chicken was OK, good flavor but I feel like a soft taco wasn't the right choice for something also soft. Josh felt the suckling pig was the perfect combination of salty and sweet--the pork cooked to perfection.
It didn't stop there. Short ribs with a mole sauce (I tasted the sauce, superb.) From what I hear the meat was ridiculous as well. The Sopes--lamb picadillo, chipotle goat cheese--had nice flavor. The empanada was OOC. The flautas were alright. The meat wasn't as flavorful inside. The dish we could have done without in this course? The queso fundido--duck confit, maitake, manchego, sunny egg--it was just really rich on top of everything else.
We also got the crazy corn which was corn on the cob rolled in chile, cheese and corn nuts. I never knew corn nuts could taste so good. This was a meal highlight for me.
Dessert was a test on our will power. Four plates came out--tres leches, flan, sopapillas, and margarita cake. My favorite was the tres leches and I am not a usually fan. The passion fruit gelee made it more of a fruit tart, which is a favorite dessert of mine. The dipping sauce for the soapillas was good, but as a whole not something to write home about. The margarita--tequila soaked almond cake, citrus salsa, salted crema, margarita granita--was an interesting twist but again was missing something.
We also all had the Casa En Fuego margarita--habanero infused tequila, patron citronage, strawberry, lime. This was out of this world. The heat that hits you was seriously perfect.
Was Bandolero on par with Graffiato? Not yet, but the dishes are unique and have potential to get even better.