Inside Pascual, the Aspiring New Mexican Oasis on Capitol Hill

Nestled in the heart of Capitol Hill, Pascual emerges as an ambitious beacon of Mexican culinary tradition, a testament to Chef Isabel Coss’s rich Mexico City heritage and the innovative spirit she has cultivated alongside her husband, Matt Conroy.

Opening its doors on Thursday, February 15, at 732 Maryland Ave NE, Pascual is set to enchant diners with a contemporary twist on Mexican cuisine, underpinned by the duo’s impressive gastronomic credentials and a shared passion for authentic flavors.

This venture is lovingly cradled within the Popal Group’s esteemed portfolio, joining the ranks of celebrated establishments like Lapis and Lutèce. The choice of name, Pascual, pays homage to San Pasqual, the patron saint of cooks and kitchens, embodying the restaurant’s dedication to culinary excellence and the transformative power of fire in cooking.

Here, the wood-fired grill is not merely an appliance but the heart of the kitchen, imbuing every savory creation with a distinctive smoky essence that resonates with Coss’s fondness for mezcal.

The journey to Pascual’s inception is paved with the rich experiences of both Coss and Conroy in the realm of high-caliber Mexican dining. Conroy, before his engagement with the Popal Group, lent his expertise as the chef de cuisine at the Michelin-starred Oxomoco in Brooklyn, while Coss, a former pastry chef at New York City’s Empellón and Cosme, began her illustrious career at the age of 17 at Pujol, an iconic fixture in Mexico City’s culinary landscape.

Pascual’s menu is a vibrant tableau of Mexican gastronomy, with dishes that speak volumes of Coss’s culinary philosophy. From whole roasted vegetables that burst with color and flavor, lying on a bed of jet-black cocoa salsa, to a parsnip tamal adorned with goat cheese and mole blanco, each creation is a narrative of tradition and innovation.

The tacos al pastor, a homage to Mexico City street food, are a testament to authenticity, while the garbanzo dish, bathed in hoja santa oil, showcases the reverence for Mexican ingredients.

Proteins kissed by flames, like the Pennsylvania lamb neck barbacoa, offer a nod to traditional techniques, despite the logistical impossibility of cooking underground. This dish, along with the skate zarandeado, exemplifies the restaurant’s commitment to delivering complex flavors through thoughtful preparation.

The guacamole program and the selection of raw dishes further demonstrate Pascual’s prowess in balancing traditional Mexican flavors with inventive culinary techniques.

Sustainability and seasonality form the cornerstone of Pascual’s ingredient philosophy, a commitment that has led to fruitful collaborations with local farmers to cultivate Mexican specialties. This dedication not only enriches the menu but also strengthens the bond between the restaurant and the rich agricultural tapestry of the region.

The interior design, a collaborative vision brought to life by Omar Popal, marries Nordic minimalism with the warmth of New Mexican aesthetics, creating a space where the food truly takes center stage. The bar offers a seasonal rotation of margaritas and a carefully curated wine list that complements the menu’s depth of flavors.

The future addition of Volcán, a panaderia and coffee shop, will extend Pascual’s offerings into the realm of casual daytime dining, providing a platform for Coss to explore her culinary creativity further.

Pascual is more than a restaurant; it is a personal journey for Coss and Conroy, a means of connecting with heritage and expressing their culinary vision. It promises to be a sanctuary for those seeking to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Mexican cuisine, crafted with love, skill, and an unwavering commitment to authenticity.

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