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Fuego Cocina y Tequileria Now Open in Clarendon

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria (2800 Clarendon Blvd), a new contemporary, casual Mexican restaurant, opened its doors in Clarendon last night (Wednesday).

The opening comes less than five months following the closure of the space’s previous occupant, Market Tavern, which replaced the former Harry’s Tap Room. Much of the expansive space looks as it did as Market Tavern — the bar area, the lighting, the staircase and the upstairs dining area are all largely the same, though with more mirrors, white paint and white furnishings to brighten up the one-time steakhouse.

The menu — created by Chef Alfredo Solis, a native of Mexico — is anchored by a selection of small, soft corn tacos with various fillings, from pork to shrimp to chorizo to beef tongue, priced at $7 for two. Those hoping for burritos will have to go down the street to Baja Fresh; they’re not to be found on the menu.

The list of appetizers includes Dos Equis beer steamed mussels, duck flautas, crabmeat quesadillas and a tilapia-based ceviche.

House specialty entrees include carne asada (grilled skirt steak, nopales salad, spring onions) for $23, carnitas (copper pot slow fried pork, housemade corn tortillas) for $17, huachinango a la Veracruzana (pan seared red snapper, tomato, green olives, capers, jalapenos) for $22 and puerco pibil (grilled pork tenderloin, sour orange, achiote, spicy pickled red onions) for $18.

Many of the dishes live up up to the eatery’s translated name — “fire kitchen.”

“Fuego Cocina y Tequileria will be a temple of traditional Mexican cuisine serving in-your-face-food with authentic, robust, not-for-the-faint-of-heart flavors and textures,” said the restaurant’s press release.

The restaurant can seat up to 150 people inside for dinner, 16 people on the patio (April 1st  through October 31st) and 30 people at the downstairs bar — also known as the tequileria. The tequileria stocks more than 100 varieties of tequila, for sipping or use in mixed drinks. Among the mixed drinks are frozen margaritas, which are served especially tart. There’s also a variety of beers on tap, including Shiner, Dos Equis, Modelo, Starr Hill and  DC Brau.

Fuego’s happy hour runs from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. on weekends.

The bar opens at 3:00 p.m. on weekdays, while dinner is offered starting at 5:00 p.m. On weekends, Fuego opens at 5:00 p.m., except for brunch, which runs from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Closing times vary.

The restaurant is owned by Passion Food Hospitality  whose other D.C. area restaurants are: DC Coast, Acadiana, Ceiba, Passionfish, District Commons, and Burger Tap and Shake.

See the full press release for the opening of Fuego, after the jump.

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria, literally meaning “fire kitchen and tequila bar,” is the Passion Food Hospitality partners’ – Chef Jeff Tunks, Gus DiMillo, and David Wizenberg’s – newest restaurant venture, opening this fall in the vibrant Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. Fuego Cocina y Tequileria will be a temple of traditional Mexican cuisine serving in-your-face-food with authentic, robust, not-for-the-faint-of-heart flavors and textures.

Guests will welcome the casual setting that feels as if they’ve stumbled across an old cantina in Mexico City that’s been revived with a modern edge. Like the artisanal cuisine of Mexico, Fuego’s décor further embodies the tradition of hand-craftsmanship. Embossed leathers evoke the floral prints of Old-world Mexico, with inlays of distressed wood and antique mirrors. Woven textiles and splashes of hot colors draw influence from Aztec culture, and jagged tile patterns create movement over the surface of the walls.

The two-level space is anchored by a newly built 50-foot bar that wraps around the main level; three focal walls are shelved with both old and new glass bottles, showcasing a full array of cocktails, and over 100 tequilas as well as signature margaritas. Brushed metal barstools belly-up to a zodiac man-made stone bar that is designed to replicate the wear-and-tear of a well-loved, much-frequented watering hole. Dangling pendants illuminate the rustic lounge seating, and an outdoor patio creates a fresh air happy-hour haven.

A cascading staircase of varied muted colors guides restaurant-goers to the dining level, which focuses on elevated recipes inspired by cooks you would find in Mexican mercados and homes. Upon ascent, a bronze, linear fireplace set within a focal wall of corten rustic metal first captures one’s attention, until the lively bursts of fire from the open kitchen grab the eye. Through gaps in the white and caramel colored banquettes, guests catch glimpses of the organized commotion that consumes the kitchen of every great restaurant. Small coves create semi-private dining, and a glass-lined liquor room showcases the array of top-shelf tequilas and other spirits. Pendant lights illuminate the tabletops, as guests enjoy the explosion of bold, clear flavors from this spirited country.

Passion Food Hospitality’s unassuming chef and co-proprietor, Jeff Tunks, keeps his menu finely tuned to the earthiness and complexity of Mexican fare with the dedicated assistance and collaboration of Fuego’s chef de cuisine, Alfredo Solis, who has been with Passion Food Hospitality-managed restaurants for more than ten years. A native of Mexico City, Solis draws naturally on his heritage and experience, and most of Fuego’s dishes pay homage to his Mexican roots, in an easy-to-please cooking style that does not cut corners in its preparation. Authentic handiwork and first-rate ingredients will shine.

Antojitos, Mexican cold and hot plates to share will dominate the menu. Eating here is going to be a serious palate pleaser with dishes like the quesadilla enlivened with fresh herbs and spices; corn tamales oozing with the earthiness of freshly shucked maize; Seafood Taquitos eloquently attuned to the sweet and subtle flavor of the crustacean; Tostados, Tortas, Empanades, Tamales and Ceviches sparkling with Chiles Amarillos— all so good you could eat them everyday. Indeed, the menu, bolstered by daily specials and signature items such as Carne Asada and Braised Duck with Black Mole will entice guests to return again and again. Unmatched house-specialty tacos will feature variations such as Chipotle Shrimp, Smoky Portabella with Cotija Cheese and Spit-roasted Pork with Pineapple. Unfussy innovation and sophistication come with Fuego’s desserts. Like a true Mexican restaurant, Fuego will offer a Flan and Sopapillas. The crepes and other sweet selections bow to Tunks’ impulse to end your meal with a modern twist and fusion of cultures. The entire menu will tempt diners to indulge in the boisterous fiesta of offerings deftly balanced in the exotic and the familiar, the simple and the complex.

Among the dazzling array of over 100 tequilas on Fuego’s list, a number of select labels offered are ‘sipping tequilas.’ All handcrafted with great care, expertise, and rarified equipment and ingredients, these pours signify a special occasion, when it’s time to indulge in one of the world’s best. Among them are: AsomBroso Extra Anejo Tequila; El Tesoro de Don Felipe Paradiso Anejo Tequila; Leyenda del Milagro Romance; Gran Patron Burdeos Anejo; Herradura Seleccion Suprema Extra Anejo; Hacienda del Cristero Blanco; Don Julio Real Extra; and Casa Dragones.

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria will offer an extensive weekend brunch menu to include Huevos Rancheros, Chaliaquiles and other Mexican breakfast favorites. The restaurant will be open 7 days a week with daily happy hour specials; varied lunch and dinner hours that make convenient dining for families, as well as for couples and the nightlife crowd; and the approachable prices customary at each of the restaurants operated and managed by Passion Food Hospitality.

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