There is a small corner of Washington DC, between Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, where Iberian products parade between white marble tables, under the watchful eye of congressmen and senators, and glasses of sherry and potato omelette are served at the bar.
Between its walls, covered in black wood and full of old family photographs, pressure groups meet to discuss strategy in front of the wide avenues that frame the Capitol Hill neighborhood, a stone's throw from the Capitol. Joselito Casa de Comidas is a tribute to the flavors of Huelva through which figures such as Bill Gates or Nancy Pelosi regularly walk.
"Many secrets are told. We could write books with the things we have heard," says the owner of the restaurant, Javier Candón, with a half smile.
The man from Huelva and his team have amassed a collection of anecdotes that would be the envy of any political chronicler in the capital: from the day a Secret Service detail showed up unannounced to record everything because the Secretary of State was coming to dinner, to the discovery that the first thing Bill Gates orders when he comes to eat (he usually visits twice a year) is a Diet Coke.
Recently, a group of Army veterans met in the spacious hall of the premises to decide who they support in the Lower House, under Republican control after tight midterm elections.
But what is most seen in Joselito, according to his manager, Gustavo Iniesta, are legislators who organize events to raise funds. "Although more Democrats come, we also have Republicans. Here we feed whoever comes," he proudly affirms.
A good example of this is their Instagram page, where the team can be seen posing with figures ranging from the former speaker of Congress, the Democrat Nancy Pelosi, to Senator Tim Kaine, one of their regular clients.
Both progressive and conservative, everyone enjoys the particular recreation of Huelva gastronomy offered by the restaurant under the baton of Madrid chef David Sierra.
The Iberian pork, the cod fritters, the soupy fish and seafood rice... Joselito's flavors try to move away from what is usually found in any Spanish restaurant in the United States and have earned the team a mention in the Michelin guide. "Here we don't have croquettes or paella," Sierra explains before admitting that the potato omelette is sometimes served at the customer's request, even though it is not on the menu.
The idea is to recreate a more popular type of cuisine, inspired by Javier Candón's native Huelva, with the guiding thread of his father's passion, José Candón-Pérez (Joselito), for the dishes that his mother and grandmother prepared.
The entire restaurant is a tribute to Don José, who passed away shortly before it opened seven years ago: the family photographs on the walls, the dishes on the menu... Even a huge photograph of his face that welcomes diners. when they walk through the door.
"When my mother arrived at the inauguration, she began to see photos one by one, and obviously she was moved, because it is like seeing her story 5,000 kilometers from home," says Javier.
Although staying true to the Candón family's gastronomic tradition is not always easy. "I would have liked to be more authentic in that sense, because my father loved offal, liver, brains...", confesses the owner. A type of dish that was served at the beginning, but that they had to withdraw because they were hardly sold.
Another problem they have had to deal with is the expectations of American customers, who often associate Spanish food with the spicy flavors of Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.
Sierra tries to adapt, playing with the ingredients. He gives an example of the Iberian pork dam, which in Joselito is served together with a more spicy and spicy version of the traditional Canarian mojo picón. "When you serve something that isn't hot, they immediately ask for tabasco or any kind of hot sauce. They say it lacks flavor," confesses Sierra, who makes no effort to hide his frustration.
Still, the team believes American palates are becoming more accustomed to Spanish flavors. Some customers already ask for the undercooked potato omelette. "In Washington, what was lived in New York ten or twelve years ago is being lived," Sierra details, with many places where dishes such as paella or ingredients such as Iberian ham are frequently seen.
For a while, the man from Madrid even personally prepared portions of tripe, which he later froze, for a lady who was very fond of it and was very upset when the restaurant decided to remove it from the menu.
The three agree that the popularity of Spanish gastronomy has allowed them to be a little more risky with their proposal. There is only one criticism that, when they receive it, they do not know how to respond. "When they say that fish tastes too fishy," Javier admits to the laughter of his colleagues