Fiesta de Mayo

(Photos by Rebecca Zook)

If you hunger for top-notch Mexican food, the Oxford Hotel’s Roam has you covered this Cinco de Mayo. From Friday, May 3 through Sunday, May 5, once the restaurant’s daily brunch is over at 2pm, the fiesta is on. Two friends and I got to sample the elevated Mexican food and drink that will be featured. Holy mole, was it great!

I realized we were in for something special as soon as drinks and our first round of appetizers hit the table. The wild boar chorizo sopes with queso fresco, crema, and shredded lettuce over a fresh masa shell were succulent and smoky, thanks to the black-bean puree and chipotle red salsa. Then there were the empanadas. Twelver hours later, I’m still remembering that crunchy shell that wasn’t greasy despite being deep-fried along with its sauteed mushroom-and-mezcal filling over a layer of duxelles made with criminis, shitakes, and yellowfoot chanterelles.

The cocktails — created especially for this Cinco de May event by food and beverage manager Ben Edel — were just as tantalizing. I’m usually a purist when it comes to mixology, but the fresh strawberry-jalapeno margarita with Don Julio Blanco tequila and fresh citrus changed all that. Get those fruit-puree versions out of your head. This one offered the perfect hint of sugar and spice. I want another right now. Of course, if you’re feeling decadent and want to splurge, the Quetzalcoatl featuring Don Julio 1942, pineapple, lime juice, and Aperol, garnished with charred pineapple and rimmed with chili pepper, salt, and sugar will transport you to a tropical island. Did I mention the gold flakes? It was love at first sip.

Street tacos on steroids followed. They’re huge and hugely delicious. I’m a sucker for mojo de ajo, a sauce made with garlic, lime juice, and ancho and guajillo chiles, so the garlic shrimp soft tacos were calling my name. I loved the contrast of tender shrimp and with crunchy purple cabbage. The Yucatan-style pork tacos with pickled onions were slightly sweet and wonderfully succulent.

If you’re a tamale fan, the oversized, fresh-masa chicken tinga tamale — cooked in a banana leaf with duck fat instead of lard and served atop a poblano cream sauce — is as traditional as it gets only better.

That’s the name of the game for this Mexican feast. Executive chef Bryant Kryck has taken Mexican food and raised it up a notch or five. Here, in Bend! That’s not as surprising as it sounds once you know his background. The Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef learned how to cook the Mexican cuisine he’s passionate about under renowned, Mexican-born Iliana de la Vega, who garnered the James Beard Best Chef in Texas Award in 2022.

No wonder the seared and then roasted salmon with a sweet-and-sour rhubarb-and-pineapple al pastor sauce was so delicious. Even that, however, couldn’t compete with the juicy, crispy-skin half chicken topped with housemade, 30-ingredient, Oaxacan mole simmered for seven hours. A little heat, a little sweet, earthy, and chocolatey, this dish was our favorite. That’s saying a lot since my two friends are mole connoisseurs, and I’m not usually a fan.

Speaking of chocolate, don’t miss the vanilla-cream-filled churros with a warm, thick Mexican chocolate dipping sauce that’s good enough to drink. How do I know? I’ll never tell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *