Fuego Cocina y Tequileria, Clarendon, VA

I’m always on the hunt for good Mexican food in DC, so I wanted to check out the Passion Food Restaurant Group’s newest edition, Fuego (2800 Clarendon Boulevard, a few blocks from the Clarendon Metro), which opened on October 3.

The metro ride over was a little dicey, but only because we weren’t sure how the orange line would hold up after Sandy ravaged the District.  We were a little fearful we wouldn’t make it through the tunnel under the Potomac.  You just never know when someone’s going to pull out the plug and all the water comes flooding in like a scene out of Titanic.

We made it to Virginia in one piece (although one of our other DC dwellers had never heard of Arlington before, so he got a little lost on the way.)  While we waited for all five members of our party to arrive, we enjoyed a few cocktails at the bar.

La Margarita Traditional ($5 during Happy Hour) was really delicious.  I’d definitely go back for another.  The Mala Suerte (habanero infused tequila, triple sec, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and a sugar rim, $9, not pictured) was also quite good.  It had a slight kick from the habanero, but was very smooth, and not overly sweet.

We loved the restaurant’s ambience.  The downstairs Tequileria had painted murals and hand picked tiles on the walls.  The upstairs Cocina had an open dining area, with high ceilings and a view of the kitchen.

The restaurant was preparing for its Day of the Dead festivities, which will be kicking off this week.

Our waiter pointed out some of his favorite items on the menu, and we made a few choices on our own.  We started with an order of Empanadas de Vegetales (roasted squash, corn, huitlacoche, goat cheese, epazote & avocado salsa, $8).  The empanada crust was fried to perfection, golden and delicious.  The mushrooms (huitlacoche) and corn were the most noticeable flavors and tasted very fresh.  I would have liked a little more goat cheese to add flavor to the dish.  The avocado salsa was spicy, and very good, but it was a bit overpowering of the other flavors in the empanada.  All in all, though, it was an enjoyable appetizer.

We also tried the Flautas de Pato (shredded duck confit, queso oaxaca, mole negro, $9).  Wow!  These were the rockstar of the menu.  The sweet shredded duck, wrapped in a flaky crust, and topped with mole sauce was outstanding.  Even the pickled onions that garnished the dish were delicious.  The mole was so good, we were dipping our chips in it after the flautas had been devoured.

 Then we had two orders of soup, the Sopa Azteca (tortilla soup, shredded chicken, pasilla chile, avocado, $7) and the Pozole Verde (slow braised pork, hominy, green chile, $8).  The tomato-based tortilla soup was pretty basic, but what stood out about it was that it had a kick of spiciness.  The Pozole Verde, which is a dish often served in the American Southwest (thanks for that tidbit EDO), was very mild.  It was good, and the pork was tender with a nice flavor, but it wasn’t really a standout.

Next were the tacos (2 for $7), which is what I came here to try—I’m on an ongoing quest to find good ones in the DC area.  Among the five of us, we had quite an assortment:  Al Pastor (spit roasted marinated pork, pineapple serrano salsa), Pollo (chicken tinga, shredded lettuce, queso fresco), Suadero (beef brisket, red & white onion, jalapeno, not pictured), Birria (jalisco style roasted goat), Baja (crispy fried tilapia, cabbage, lime crema, not pictured), and Camarones (grilled shrimp, jicama slaw).  The table was underwhelmed by some of the tacos, but liked others (all of them looked really good). I enjoyed the Pollo tacos.  The meat was very juicy and the lettuce added a great crunchy texture.  The roasted goat tacos had a nice gamey flavor.  I’d order these two again.  The pork in the tacos Al Pastor was too dry, but the flavor was good.  My companions thought the Baja tacos were bland, but the Suadero ones were tasty.  There were mixed feelings about the homemade corn tortillas—some were too crunchy, some too soggy, others just right.  I liked the jalapeno dipping sauce.

 

All in all, I liked this restaurant for the ambience, the drinks and the flautas (I’m still salivating over these).  The service was also good, our waiter very friendly, and the food and drinks reasonably priced.  It’s not the best Mexican food I’ve had in this city, but it did have a few items that would draw me back.

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria on Urbanspoon

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