First Look: Victor Albisu's Taco Bamba Pop-Up, Washington, D.C.

[Photographs: Brian Oh]

Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.

Chef Victor Albisu, formerly of BLT Steak, is currently previewing his upcoming taqueria, Taco Bamba (opening later this year in Falls Church, VA), at Jeff Black's Black Jack bar. Albisu took over the RAMMY winning bar with a steady stream of small tacos.

In addition to the Taco Bamba posters plastered over Black Jack's usual decor, the Taco Bamba crew hung a series of Spaghetti Western posters above the bocce court - a pair featuring "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" nemeses, Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, and then... one of Selma Hayek from the hilariously bad, steampunk western, "Wild Wild West." The servers wore fake moustaches and the movie "Nacho Libre" was projected on the wall above the bar (yes, the one where Jack Black plays a Mexican monk moonlighting as a luchador).

If you're sensing a theme, you're not alone. This mix of influences and playful irreverence runs through Albisu's choices for his new menu as well, not just the fake crumb catchers.


Black Jack staff enlisted to aid in the Taco Bamba preview by wearing fake moustaches

By far the most popular taco of the evening was the eponymous Taco Bamba taco. The bite sized tortillas topped with skirt steak, chorizo, and chicarones barely made it five feet into the crowd before they were snatched up in a frenzy.

One of the more clever offerings was the Crispy Kiss taco. Dubbed the "Kiss, Kiss" by the staff, it contained pork and beef tongue, topped with scallions and a red chili aioli, and was extremely flavorful. The Chipotle Portabella taco was the lone vegetarian option of the night and the spiciest. Portabella mushroom, grilled corn, and cotija with a potent kick.


Tongue, two ways: cow and pig tongue make for an intensely flavorful taco

As for cocktails, there are light, easy sipping drinks including a Pineapple Agua Fresca (pineapple, lime juice, simple syrup, and tequila) and Sangrita (jalapeƱo, lime juice, orange juice, tomato juice, served alongside a shot of tequila), a margarita-sangria hybrid. Taco Bambo won't, however, have a liquor license, so the only time to try these are at one of the Monday night sessions at Black Jack.

Speaking of which, Taco Bambo will continue to occupy Black Jack every Monday night from 6-11 pm through December 17th. You can expect an a la carte menu of full sized tacos that will rotate as Chef Albisu continues to tinker with the menu ahead of the official opening. You can check out what's on the current menu here. And be sure to check out the slideshow for a preview of what Chef Albisu is cooking up for Taco Bamba.

Taco Bamba 2190 Pimmit Drive, Falls Church, VA 22043 (map)

Black Jack 1612 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 2009 (map) 202-986-5225;