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Chef José Andrés is associated with seven restaurants in the Washington area; was inducted in 2007 into the James Beard Foundation's "Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America" (one of only 191 members); has been called the "boy wonder of culinary Washington" by the New York Times; hosts a daily television show about food that airs in Spain; has just launched a 26-episode national cooking show here in the U.S. in 2008; serves on the board of D.C.'s largest food-for-the-homeless operation, D.C. Central Kitchen; and has authored two cookbooks, the latest of which, Passport to Spain, has just been published -- all before his 40th birthday.
It all started here. Well no, it all started in the farm town of Mieres, in northern Spain, where Andrés was born. But his success in America began 16 years ago when he was hired as the chef at nearby Jaleo, and then at Café Atlantico. He wears several toques now: He remains connected to Jaleo and is the chef behind one of the city's newest sensations, Oyamel, as well as the ever-popular Zaytinya, too. Still, you'll find Andrés in residence at the minibar, upstairs at Café Atlantico, working with Café Atlantico chef Katsuya Fukushima to create 30 to 40 small concoctions, from foie gras in a cocoon of cotton candy to pineapple raviolis, for six people per seating, Tuesday to Saturday, at 6 and 8:30pm. The gourmet adventure costs $120 per person, not including wine, tax, and tip, and requires a reservation that's best made a month in advance.
The main restaurant of Café Atlantico, meanwhile, rocks on. All week long, but especially on weekend nights, this is a favorite hot spot in Washington's hottest neighborhood. The colorful three-tiered restaurant throbs with Latin, calypso, and reggae music; and everyone is having a fiesta -- including, it seems, the waiters. If the place is packed, try to snag a seat at the second-level bar, where you can watch the genial bartender mix the potent drinks for which Café Atlantico is famous: the caipirinha, made of limes, sugar, and Cachaçha (sugar-cane liqueur), or the mojito, a rum and crushed-mint cocktail.
Seated at the bar or table, you'll watch as your waiter makes fresh guacamole to your specified degree of spiciness. As for the main dishes, you can't get a more elaborate meal for the price. Check out the ceviche, Cornish hen wrapped in bacon served with deconstructed mole sauce, and seared scallops with coconut crispy rice and ginger, squid, and squid-ink oil; though the menu changes, you're sure to find these or their equivalent listed. Tropical side dishes and pungent sauces produce a burst of color on the plate. Feel free to ask your friendly waiter for guidance.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Top 100 Restaurant 2008
- Top 100 Restaurant 2009
- Highly Recommended 2009