This post was written by Hatchet reporter Sarah Jurinsky.
When you’re greeted by a server with an intricate painting of a skull on her face, you know to prepare yourself for a lively party.
For two weeks, José Andrés’ Mexican eatery, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, on the corner of 7th and D streets in Penn Quarter will host a festival celebrating Day of the Dead, which kicks off with a party on Oct.19. The festival showcases authentic Mexican cuisine and entertainment for a cost of $49.
I went to a preview this week to see what it was like. The dim lighting and live music transforms the eatery to an evening in Mexico. A woman sitting near the entrance paints customers’ faces using an array of brushes and colors, a traditional custom from the holiday.
Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a traditional Mexican holiday celebrating and honoring the dead. General Manager Jason Wiles said that the party “celebrates the things these people loved when they were alive.”
More specifically, this party honors Pedro Infante, an actor during the Golden Age of Mexican cinema in the 1940s and 1950s. Formerly an amateur pilot, Infante died in a plane crash at the age of 39.
Wiles said that Oyamel integrates “the flavors of where he lived and where he passed” in the food and drinks served at the party.
Food available includes a variety of dishes including raw sea urchin, duck, quail, rabbit and staples like chips with fresh salsa and guacamole. One special dish available for the party is Tacos de Castacan – fried pork belly, liver and kidney tossed with cabbage and habañero salsa.
The homage to Infante is shown in a cocktail called “The Soldier,” named after Infante’s first recorded song, which consists of tequila, aperol, grapefruit and a kick of onion-infused honey – which Infante used to season his stews.
Another drink available for the festival is called “Funeral in Yucatán,” which consists of tequila, liqueur, espresso, cava and lemon espuma.
Chef Colin King described the food as being authentic and said that the food is not too spicy, but it has many spice variations instead.
“The flavor rotates,” he said. “It takes at least 10 seconds to experience the flavor.”