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Mole Report – Coyoacan Café, San Jose

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The NYTimes had a small review of Coyoacan Café’s mole, so we stopped by for dinner last weekend. The café is in the same nondescript strip as Ramen Halu and was completely empty around 8pm on a Saturday night, although a couple of tables and take-out orders trickled in after us.

First we were served a big bowl of chips that came with some tomato-based salsa – I like spicy food but this salsa was packed with numbing heat – almost wanted to ask for a cup of milk to put out the fires in our mouths!

The two entrees we ordered were the Pollo en Mole and the Shrimp in Garlic Sauce. The Shrimp entrée was flavorful and really garlicky, with quite a few (5-7?) large shrimps. Better than the version at Fiesta del Mar in Mountain View yet not super special. As for the mole(chocolate-based-poblano?) – it had a dense, deep flavor with no hint of
bitterness. Not the most sublime mole, but finally a mole with some depth! probably the best I’ve come upon in a while. If anyone knows of something better/comparable in the Bay Area I’d love to check it out. Btw I have not been to Tepa Sahuayo in Watsonville – anyone know if they have mole negro Oaxaqueno there?

Our entrees came with corn or flour tourtillas, rice and beans. Each was around $10 after tax. Service was warm and friendly.

Coyoacan Café,
375 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose

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-biased list of places serving addictive mole-

Guelaguetza’s Mole Negro and Mole Rojo (LA) – this is a chain and they sell the mole
sauce in jars to-go.
Fonda el Refugio’s Mole Rojo and Mole Verde with Pumpkin seeds(Mexico City)
Monte Alban Mole Rojo (LA)

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  1. Ah, you should have been at the Chowing with the Hounds Picnic yesterday. Then you would have an amazing mole. Check the Home Cooking section for the recipe, should you feel ambitious.

    As for Coyoacan Cafe, I've never seen them busy, although I'm usually going past there later in the evening.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Peter Yee

      thx Peter! will definitely check this out.

      Except Ramen Halu, it seemed like most of the restaurants in that plaza are empty in the evenings. The Thai restaurant next to Coyoacan was completely empty as well. We overheard one of the customers asking the server when the restaurant does the most business and she replied breakfast/brunch. Wonder if anyone's stopped in for breakfast/if different items are avaialble

    2. The best mole I've had in the area is from Vive Sol in Mountain View and/or Palo Alto Sol in Palo Alto. Same kitchen, same chef dedicated to just making mole all day, I'm told. It's been a while since I had it, but I have some good memories of it.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Jeremy Tavan

        Thats interesting. I thought the mole at Palo Alto Sol to be very typical of the "simple, out of a jar mole served over dried out chicken" that is so seemingly ubiqitous in the Bay Area.
        The service was nice enough though.

        1. re: tomritza

          Vive Sol in Mountain View? do you have the address?

          had a great mole poblano burrito at La Costena in Mountain View a few weeks ago...

        2. re: Jeremy Tavan

          Actually, the two restaurants have the same owners, but the chefs and cooks are different, and given that the restaurants are miles apart, they don't share a stock pot much less a kitchen.

          Vive Sol (Mountain View, CA) is our preferred spot, as Helena (owner/manager) puts much more care and time into ensuring the quality of flavor and plates than does her husband, who manages PA Sol. We've heard that Helena is all about making the best food, while her husband is all about making the best profit.

          So, if you ever have a so-so meal at PA Sol (as we've had, numerous times), then start going to Vive Sol instead. It can be more difficult to get a table, even though it's a larger restaurant. Trust me, it's worth the wait.

          After the mole, try the rajas poblanos! And enjoy all the homemade goodness that Helena has to offer.

        3. Gallegos Mexican Food on San Pablo in Berkeley.