Restaurants take time to open, however, as with a Broadway show, once opening night has occurred it is imperative to put on a solid show, performance after performance, for the folks who buy the tickets. Bandolero feels like it maybe opened a week too soon, but certainly understand them wanting to take advantage of the holiday weekend. It did not mar my first visit early Sunday evening. The kinks -- slow expediting from the kitchen -- can be worked out. They aren't under-staffed. There were four bartenders and four hostesses at 5 p.m., plus servers and bussers. What matters is what came out of the kitchen: good southwestern cuisine with a statement flare, and I write that with Austin as my personal benchmark; also, here in DC, Oyamel, which I've long considered the local class of the field. Now we have Oyameld and Bandolero.
I wanted spice, and lots of it, and got that right at the start with the Sikil Pak, a pumpkin seed alternative to guacamole. It was a pleasant complement to the "Margarita Classico." The margarita is expensive for its size. Still, very refreshing. Just the right amount of natural, not packaged, sour.
After we ordered the server said the food would come out as it was ready, in that order, and the two of us could share. This is a trend we had seen in Austin, as well. What arrived first was the Octopus Tacos - tasty, tender, and enhanced by the contrast of adobo and cucumber. After that, the Caesar salad with cotija, fat anchovies and unsual and appealing croutons made with "queso fresco." They are simply popable. They could be snack food.
Our next two courses were from the "traditional" section of the menu: a Queso Fundido with duck confit and a Mole Negro with short ribs and baby new potatoes. Both dishes were delicious. With the octopus, duck and short ribs I ordered a glass of 2010 "Love Drunk" Oregon Pinot Noir Rose, a nice and light rose. Very friendly wine but I was surprised by the pour: less than half the glass. At $11 that seemed a little stingy. So I would say, if there are two of you, and you are going to have more than one glass each of that wine, order the bottle at $40. On the refill, the pour was a little more generous. Again, I see this as a kink that will be worked out. Restaurants pay relatively little for wine, it's a big mark-up, and while it is where most make their money, it's also an opportunity to thank patrons; restaurateurs can afford to be generous on by-the-glass orders. My opinion.
We weren't planning to order dessert (what we'd had was quite filling) until we saw the dessert menu. It's not lengthy but each item is tempting. We went with the coconut flan but want to return for fried donuts with dulce de leche, "tres leches" cake, the "margarita" of tequila soaked almond cake and the coconut cookies.
Details beyond food: the music is loud ("this mix sounds like something put together by the owner's teenage son," said a customer) and the room is dark. We sat downstairs by the front window, a comfortable place to be, because there is light coming in from the sky but also because we got to watch some dude out in the street giving the finger to every passing car and then trying to grab onto the side of an 18-wheeler. Go bro! At night I''m sure the darkness works in the room's favor. Regardless, it's got a mood. Back by the kitchen is also nice. There's an upstairs but it felt cramped (unless you can book one of the two tables with leather sofas).
We're fortunate to have this addition to Georgetown. Most serious restaurants and chefs avoid our village, due to ridiculous rents and liquor restrictions. They open in friendlier quarters. Chef Mike Isabella, a "Top Chef" contestant, could open anywhere in the city but he chose Georgetown. I hope Georgetown shows up for him. I plan to to delve more deeply into the menu on return visits.