Fuego Cocina y Tequileria brings the heat

Correction appended

For a quick Mexican fix, Chipotle may suffice, but for an authentic experience, Fuego Cocina y Tequileria promises flavor and fun.

Passion Food Hospitality, the group that brought Burger, Tap & Shake and District Commons to Foggy Bottom, brought a carefully crafted menu and locally sourced cuisine to Clarendon, Va. with an official debut Wednesday.

Meg Mendelsohn, a public relations representative for the restaurant, said that like its Foggy Bottom siblings, Fuego will offer a relaxed atmosphere.

Housed in a bright, open space with light-wood walls and sleek, modern décor, Fuego takes form in two parts. An entire level of the restaurant is devoted to serving up more than 100 different types of tequila, including sipping and hand-crafted liquors, while the other is devoted to dining. A rustic fireplace and custom murals, inspired by traditional images like the Mexican sugar skull, root the restaurant in its old-world, earthy culture.

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria also shares many of the “quirky surprises and design elements” that Burger Tap & Shake and District Commons are known for, Mendelsohn said.

She added that the restaurant was a group effort that utilized a team of chefs and restaurateurs.

“Passion Food Hospitality looks within their own team when conceptualizing and planning their next venture,” Mendelsohn said. “Executive chef Jeff Tunks worked alongside [chef de cuisine] Alfredo Solis extensively to develop and create the menu.”

Solis, a Mexico City native, guided the menu’s development, making sure to include what Mendelsohn called his personal childhood favorites. The menu showcases an array of traditional dishes with modern touches, including tapas-style small plates, nine different types of tacos and house specialties.

Though the menu is notably devoid of burritos – a conscious effort on the part of the restaurant’s development team – familiar favorites such as guacamole ($9) with fresh tortilla chips and salsa ($2) and chiles rellenos ($16) make an appearance.

Like the décor, the menu takes adventurous twists.

Sample an array of small plates to start. Try Dos Equis Steamed Mussels ($13) – served with chorizo, caramelized onions and chipotle cream – or goat cheese and vegetable stuffed Empanadas de Vegetales ($8).

Rather than your classic chicken or beef taco, be daring and try something new such as Lengua, Birria or Calabaza – beef tongue, roasted goat and squash with pickled red onions. Each taco order ($7) comes with two, so order a few and share among friends.

For a heartier meal, take on a house specialty. Carnitas ($17) – slow fried pork – are a Mexican staple, served with housemade corn tortillas. Enchiladas de Marisco ($24) stuffed with shrimp, crab and lobster put a spin on a time-honored classic.

Take a break from Foggy Bottom and head three stops on the Orange Line to sample new flavors at Fuego Cocina y Tequileria.

This article was updated Oct. 6, 2012 to reflect the following:

The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Fuego Cocina y Tequileria is three stops away from Foggy Bottom on the Blue Line. It is on the Orange Line.

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