El Centro D.F. is the newest Washington, DC venture by noted chef Richard Sandoval, aka the “father of modern Mexican cuisine.” He takes a Latin American staple–the taquería–and gives it a twist as smooth as his tequilas made from 100% agave. Sandoval calls El Centro’s cuisine “Mexican comfort food.” “The restaurant’s menu is based on traditional dishes, from authentic chiles and cheeses, to fresh tortillas, to house-made sauces such as adobo, entomatada and tomatillo,” he says. “The cooking always showcases the unique flavors of Mexico.” And these true Mexican delicacies include El Centro’s more than 200 tequilas and mezcals. Try the special Mojito Mexicano made with El Jimador, a tequila blanco spiced with chile ginger syrup. Seating 60, the ground floor features rough, plank tables and cream stucco walls with green splotches that evoke a street-front eatery. To reach the reservations-only, 64-seat basement Tequileria, walk past the open kitchen through the door marked “Exit” and down the concrete staircase edged with balusters built of ropes and chains. You feel as if you’re entering an underground club. The cement floor, dim lighting and rustic wood tables aglow with votive candles enhance this impression, and so does the backbeat of reggaeton, salsa and hip-hop music. Up on the roof, (capacity 100), the aroma of freshly squeezed limes from the two bars greets you. The coral and yellow stucco walls, as well as the summer’s soft night air on a recent visit, evoked a strong sense of escaping south of the border. Like many groups, a recent White House contingent began with rooftop margaritas and flights of tequila before descending to the basement for more networking over platefuls of signature dishes. Our faves are the Jalisco shrimp and crab enchiladas with Oaxaca cheese, and tacos al pastor made with adobo marinade pork shoulder, cilantro and grilled pineapple.