Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Night Dinner Party For First Lady: Michelle Obama & Friends At DC's Oyamel Restaurant

A repeat visit to Chef José Andrés' Chinatown eatery...
Perhaps tired from his three-day, five-state tour this week, President Obama was not part of his wife's dinner party on Friday night as First Lady Michelle Obama paid a visit to Washington, DC's Oyamel. Mrs. Obama arrived at the Chinatown restaurant at about 6:30 PM with a large group of friends, according to a source inside the popular eatery, and stayed for more than two hours. Owner/executive chef José Andrés, a partner in Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! campaign, was on hand to greet the First Lady. He was in the audience on Wednesday as Mrs. Obama announced USDA's new school nutrition standards. Andrés also appeared on CBS This Morning to discuss Mrs. Obama and the healthier school meals.

The First Lady's security detail was very busy...
Mrs. Obama and her party of about ten dined in Oyamel's glassed-off private area in the main dining room. She has visited the restaurant before, and unlike some of her "incognito" culinary adventures in DC, such as repeat visits to BLT Steak, this one was hard to miss. Agents flanked the busy main dining room, noisy with an end-of-week crowd. In front of the restaurant, on 7th Street NW, the area was partially blocked off, and filled with an armed security detail. Patrons hoping to dine were lined up to be wanded and patted down by Secret Service, who also searched handbags and briefcases. Guests were asked to put these down on the sidewalk to the side, for a thorough search. (Above: The exterior of Oyamel)

The First Lady left after 8:30 PM, exiting out a back door of the restaurant into her waiting motorcade. She loves Andrés' cooking: Since moving into the White House, Mrs. Obama has dined at his Greek/Mediterranean restaurant, Zaytinya, at least three times. Members of the First Lady's entourage were also later spotted dining at Andrés' nearby Jaleo restaurant; the chef stopped by to chat with them, too.

Perhaps Mrs. Obama was in the mood for Oyamel because she visited Florida on Thursday to announce a commitment from Goya Foods to the Let's Move! campaign, and to attend DNC fundraisers. Goya is the largest Hispanic food company in the US.

Andrés is a big fan of Twitter, but he is the most discreet chef who has cooked for Mrs. Obama, and never tweets about the visits of his most high-profile regular guest. But he did tweet about her efforts with school lunch.

"On my way to hear Ms. Obama give a speech about School lunch reform..awesome! Biggest contribution of a First Lady to USA ever @BarackObama," Andrés tweeted before he joined Mrs. Obama at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, VA.

The Oyamel menu...
A cookbook author and host of the PBS show Made in Spain, the James Beard Award-winning Andrés has been a superstar on the DC restaurant scene for more than two decades. Oyamel's menu stars small plates, "Anojitos," billed as "the little dishes from the streets," which include items such as Carne Apache, grass-fed beef with sweet onion, pickled cactus, serrano chile, cilantro and smoked pasilla de Oaxaca chile oil for $11, and Ceviche de Atun Pacifico, Tuna with Maggi-lime marinade, scallions, avocado, toasted pecans, jalapenos and crispy amaranth ($12). There's also "Authentic Mexican" tacos in hand-made corn tortillas, a wide variety Carnes (meats) and Mariscos (seafood), as well as salads and vegetables, all ranging in price from $7-$14. The dinner menu [PDF].

Watch Andrés in action on CBS: (he comes in at 2:30)

Information: Oyamel is located at 401 7th St NW, Washington, DC, 20004. Phone: (202) 628-1005.

*Top photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama; Oyamel photos courtesy of Oyamel; CBS video