Monday, June 29, 2015

Double Header: Maketto and Ocopa

Adam and I joke -- usually when we're on vacation and have to narrow our list of restaurants to try -- about doing first dinner and second dinner, but we've never actually followed through.  On Friday about two weeks ago, we came close with Josh and Jessica.  (I'd estimate three-quarters of a dinner times two.)  Ocopa quoted a 45 minute wait (and there were people at their tiny bar), so we figured we'd grab a drink at (larger) Maketto across the street (which we still hadn't tried).  They had a table immediately available if we wanted food, so we figured we'd do a round of drinks and snacks and decide at that point whether we want to stay.

We only ordered from the small plates section, mostly because there were more pesca-friendly dishes that appealed there, but also to avoid committing ourselves to a full meal from the get-go.  Fermented vegetables were unmemorable, some sort of thinly sliced white root vegetable (I don't think we were ever told what exactly, and I didn't care enough to ask).  I'd hoped for an interesting assortment of pickled vegetables, but no such luck.  The red snapper crudo was in a tasty sauce -- sort of like a very light Thai curry -- but the fish itself was a bit too fishy for Adam and me.  We were fans of the leek steam buns except Adam (who thought they were just okay).  Basically what you'd expect if you're familiar with the pillowy carb delivery vehicle that is a steamed bun, but I enjoyed the vegi-friendly take on what's usually only a carnivore's option (plus I love leeks).  Adam and I loved the generously portioned scallion pancake -- more bready and less greasy than you'd find from a mine-run Chinese restaurant, veering less Asian with the addition of fantastic scallion compound butter. The oysters on egg omelette was the other table highlight -- thin and slightly stretchy (from the addition of some sort of flour? an effect about which we were warned), the oysters' creating almost-creamy pockets in the egg.  Nostalgically reminded me of a late-night hawker stall meal in Singapore back in college.

By far my favorite drink was Jessica's turmeric "drinking vinegar" (aka shrub?) with palm sugar and soda water -- like an exotic Italian soda.  (They'll also mix the vinegars with booze, and I bet it would be great with the suggested bourbon pairing.)  Adam's Mala Colada -- basically a spiced pina colada -- was delicious (he loved it), but a bit heavy for my non-on-a-beach taste.  Josh's Pink Kao (an intriguing-sounding combination of Kaoling, ginger, Aperol, honey, lemon, and Angostura bitters) just tasted disappointingly flat -- everyone's least favorite.  I can't recall the name of my brown-liquor cocktail, but it tasted like a twist on an old fashioned that was good but read a bit wintery for the weather.

After the one round, the vastly superior cocktails and more interesting (in my opinion), consistent food at Ocopa beckoned us back across the street.  For now, Maketto is a better-than-H-Street-average addition to the neighborhood -- I'll definitely return -- but Ocopa is the better restaurant.  (I'm still confused by Maketto's concept, despite actually having eaten there, walked through the space, and helped Adam pick out ridiculous replacement socks for Caleb from the front store.  Adam's purchase aside, do they actually expect people to be buying $80 shoelaces, or is it just an occasionally self-subsidizing decorative scheme?)

Ocopa didn't have a table yet, but the tiny 4-seat bar was totally empty, so we ordered a round there.  Props to the bartender who set a full glass of the delicious purple corn punch before a very pregnant Jessica when she didn't order a drink -- a thoughtful gesture.  (The back patio opened the following day, so now there's a much larger bar area out back, plus more tables capable of seating groups larger than two.)  Just as we were debating order food from the bar, we were shown to a table, where Josh and Jessica ceded ordering to Adam and me.  The clasico cebiche and ensalada de maiz (choclo, yellow corn, cancha, avocado, huacatay vinaigrette) went over well as always, and we were pleased to see a number of new seafood dishes on the menu.  A soft shell crab special (with "salsa cebichera") was better than one we'd had the night before at Fiola Mare (which was sadly more heavily fried and accompanied by sauce that read as fancy tartar).  Causa de erizo (sea urchin, avocado, aji amarillo) was topped with beautiful sweet urchin; I preferred it to China Chilcano's iteration.  I liked the conchas a la paremsana (bay scallop, huancaina, paremsan cheese -- served in individual shells) more than Adam did, who compared them unfavorably to Hank's great BBQ oysters.  We mourned the removal of the grilled calamari, but the grill-seared atun (tuna, sweet soy, nikei sauce, kwiciha, sweet drops), while not an equal replacement for that awesome calamari, was nonetheless an enjoyable consolation.  Another round of delicious drinks and dessert, and we stumbled happily back into the night, much less grossly full than I'd feared.    


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