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Feb 5, 2007 09:57 AM

Cocina Poblana

I am often asked for recommendations for Mexican restaurants (since I am from Mexico!). Most of the times I have to excuse myself since the majority of restaurants are not really Mexican but an American version....

I went to Cocina Poblana in Emeryville since I heard it was "home style cooking". I was not disappointed. It will now be one of the few places I do recommend.

They have breakfast and lunch with completely different menus and cooks.

I had dinner.
Huarachitos. Nice thick tortilla, mild, excellent beans and chicken and tinga.
Taquitos poblanos. soft tortilla, SAME filling as above!
Raspaditas de tinga. Same filling as above.
Quesadillas. A bit soft for me but with wonderful cheese filling

Mole Elena. Black mole chicken. Also mild but great depth and complexity. Truly homemade. served with rice but no tortillas. Had to ask extra (I think it was our waiter who was new and forgot)
Carnitas. Probably one of the best in the bay area. Big chunks, well marinated and cooked to be soft. Ask for tortillas!
Platillo casero pork ribs. The ribs had very little meat. Well almost none. the green sauce could use some more bite and sour taste.
Chiles en nogada. Great sauce and the filling was almost like the best in Mexico City. Just a bit sweet but otherwise where else can you get them all year round? In Mexico we only serve in September...

The aguas were quite good, jamaica especially.

The hot chocolate is made with real abuelita.
Skip the cafe de has nothing to do with the real cinnamon sweetened drink in Mexico.
Desserts were a bit of a disappointment. The flan had an odd texture and taste like they added coffee or another flavoring. The tres leches was dry and way too much artificial whipped cream.

Overall one of the best places for mexican food! The owner was great and gave us extra rice when our waiter forgot one of the dishes we had ordered. Buen provecho!

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  1. Thanks for the the tips. The carnitas sound great and good to hear it is a respectable version of Chiles en Nogada. I love that dish.

    I keep meaning to get over there and try the breakfast soup - Sopa con huevo - Vegetable soup, cooked with two eggs bell peppers onions and cilantro

    Someone DID go for the weekend breakfast/brunch recently, but it got buried in another post. They liked the cafe de olla but it was the first time they tried this drink. It might be pleasant if someone is not looking for authentic.

    Chow Digest report with link that has links to other Cocina Poblano reports:

    2 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      RW, thanks for linking my post. I saw your mention of Poblano in the other thread so I added my 2 cents while the memory was still fresh.

      I haven't been to Mexico in I don't know how long, so no mentions by me of authenticity. All I know is I liked the Cafe de Holla (and I've also seen it spelled olla and hoya, but I'm pretty sure they had Holla on the menu).

      I love Picante's breakfast, but they don't serve until 10 am on weekends. Which is too bad since I'm walking the dog early. So even though the early hours work well for us, the quality of the breakfast at Poblano will definitly get a return visit from us.

      1. re: buster

        Yeah, they do misspell it Café de Holla. Per the menu it's flavored with cinnamon.

    2. I ate there about a month ago. The chips & salsa were great - fresh hot chips in a cone + 3 salsas (2 red, 1 green in circular holders attached to the cone). I had Camarones al Chipotle: Jumbo prawn’s sautéed, with Chardonnay, garlic, mushrooms, with a creamy chipotle sauce, served with rice ($14). This was excellent, rich and just the right amount of smokey heat. The plate looked a little bland as it is just shrimp and plain rice. Margaritas were OK, but a little pricey. Best to go during happy hour when they give you free botanas! Ours was a plate of 3 chicken sopes, which were accomadated to be vegetarian upon request. Desserts were disappointing - Tres Leches cake was very dry as marlon noted. Service was good. I'll be back to try more, including breakfast.

      1. Consolidating my review from another, less related thread:

        Last week I was driving back from Santa Clara at night intending to stop at Los Cantaros (based on an RW post, I believe)... instead I overshot the exit (didn't realize I needed to take the 980)... so I exited Ashby and spotted Cocina Poblana as I tried to navigate towards San Pablo Ave.

        I wasn't terribly interested in a big meal, but not knowing the area well... and afraid I would end up in Downtown Oakland... I stopped by to check it out.

        The meal started with complimentary chips & salsa, which were merely okay. The salsas had that appealing earthiness you find in Central Mexico... big black flecks of charred tomatillos & chiles, and instead of pureed, thinness it had the course texture of salsas mashed in a molcajete. Beyond the visual appeal... the red tasted mostly of burnt Guajillo chiles and lacked heat. The Green lacked the hint of sweetness & citrus you find in well roasted tomatillos, and also lacked heat. Nothing too exciting.

        Next wanting to give their Mole Poblano a test drive, I asked if the Enchiladas Poblanas could be served as an appetizer (getting a single Enchilada with plenty of sauce... is a common App throughout Central Mexico).... strike number one. The waiter - who was perfectly bilingual & bicultural -... unapolegetically informed me that I would still have to pay the full entree price. At that point I knew this joint lacked that humility, hospitality and aim-to-please attitude you typically find in Mexico's family run operations. Also once you add the service, and the Traditional meets Starbuck's approach on decor... I got the bad vibe of places like Regalito Rosticeria... and all the newish, largely empty restaurants in skyscrapers around Polanco & Roma-Condessa in Mexico City.

        I didn't object to the price... and the Enchiladas came very quickly. Two slightly thick homemade tortillas, stuffed with shredded chicken, rolled & sauced with their version of Mole Poblano... and then topped with shredded cheese. Oh oh, the shredded melting cheese instead of crumbled Fresco or Cotija foretold of sloppiness. The first taste of the sauce... revealed a strong Guajillo flavor, followed by discernible Cloves then a bit of heat. I was fairly dissappointed at what seemed to be a fairly unsophisticated sauce. The first surprise came with the chicken... it was perfectly tender, all breast meat and a good canvas for the sauce. It could have been improved with a nice gamey, free range chicken or a richer turkey breast, but overall it was quite likeable. The sauce grew on me, the more I had it... and as I waited for the main course, I was enjoying the sesame seed & peanuts, that were not evident in the first bites. In the end, I would say its good... its homemade and certainly better than any store bought brand. But, in the realm of good Mole Poblanos this one was certainly lacking in sophisticated flavor layering. Mole's typically strive to deliver a whole new integrated flavor... with a bit of identifiable layers. Where here I could taste the Guajillos... in a good Mole Poblano... I would have tasted Guajillos, Anchos & Poblanos in one surge of Chile flavors. Instead of just tasting Cloves... I would have enjoyed Cloves, Allspice & Nutmeg together etc., In addition, I never got the earthy contribution from bitter chocolate, or the sweet fruitiness from Plaintains & dried fruits etc., etc.,

        For the main course, I was intrigued by the Carne a la Mexicana which promised a tender Arrachera over a canvas of grilled Nopales... as well as garnishes of Rice, Beans & Guacamole.

        The Flank steak was perfectly tender, slow broiled rather than seared... typical of restaurants in Mexico (as opposed to taco stands etc.,). However, the flavor was just not good... and it had that eerily plastic look of surreally tender beef in low end Chinese restaurants. But there was definitely no velveting going on here. After a while, I figure it out.... Maggi Sauce & Tenderizer. I was not impressed... Mexico has so many tasty, natural tricks for tenderizing gamey cuts of meat... I don't appreciate paying for these types of short cuts... and to boot, it gave the meat an almost acrid taste.

        Instead of serving the steak over Nopales (as promised) it was served over a sautee of Onions & Bell Peppers that were simply terrible. The onions had that certain Nail Polish Remover taste & aroma that comes when you don't know how to select & cook them.. again I think they may have been glazed with a little bit Maggi.

        When I first saw the rice... I was almost glad I forgot to ask for no rice. It was beautiful, big seperate rice kernels, and it was slightly green... so I quickly assumed they were serving the traditional Poblano Green Rice... made with a stir frying sauce made from tomatillos, mint, cilantro & poblano chiles instead of the more common tomato rice. Instead it was green from the crap that grows in old garlic, and just intended to be Garlic-Butter rice,... absolutely the worst rice I've ever had.

        Beans were okay, but didn't taste like much. Not sure, if am giving them a bad wrap because the rice spoiled everything else I tasted, but they certainly seemed bland.

        The Tortillas were certainly good... earthy, thick with the slightest bit of white corn sweetness.

        Overall, I might go back for the Enchiladas Poblanas... they weren't great but they did grow on me... and I am not sure how many other places around can surpass them. Next time I will try one of the soups... something tells me they will probably nail them. But, I am not in any rush to give it a second try.... I definitely want to try out Los Cantaros first.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          FWIW... I think my recent Mole Negro Chicken Enchiladas at Carrenos Authentic Oaxacan in Rhonert Park were far superior to the Mole Poblano Enchiladas at Cocina Poblana.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            Seems like they will be opening another location at Jack London Square in Oakland.

            The JLS restaurant will feature a Tequila bar

            The Emeryville restaurant has a happy hour now - Monday trough Friday from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. They have free Apetizers, Margaritas at $5.00 and Beers at $3.00. They also have tequila flights.

            There are two beers on the menu I haven't seen before - Besame and Infierno

            Anybody tried happy hour and know what the freebies include?

            They also expanded their breakfast hours to seven days a week.

            Cocina Poblana Restaurant
            1320 65th St, Emeryville, CA 94608

            Cocina Poblana
            1109 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

            1. re: rworange

              It's interesting to see varied experience with Cocina Poblano. My BF and I had brunch at the Emeryville one yesterday, deciding to try "new" vs. Tacabuya, which we are fans of.
              Overall, we were disappointed. He had the chilaquiles which was completely soggy. The chips didn't seem distinct at all, almost becoming a casserole with the eggs. He had ordered black beans but they brought potatoes, which he just kept. They seemed stale and were flavorless.
              I had the salmon torta-- it was large. Generous piece of salmon. It was a little undercooked for my taste. Dry, overall.

              We did like the salsas-- 3 different kinds were brought with the chips. They helped my sandwich. My BF had the sangria which was good.

              Glad we tried it, but we won't be going back.

              1. re: rln

                We ate at Cocina Poblana Oakland last night. Worst Mexican restaurant I've tried in the past year (and I love Mexican & eat out often). Had the guacamole, Sopa Azteca, and Chiles en Nogada. I don't think any of the dishes tasted fresh. Like rln, I seriously do NOT think I'll go back.

                1. re: klyeoh

                  I had a certificate so we tried it the other night. Very disappointing. The menu *looks* good but the execution is terrible. Chips tasted like store bought -- red and green salsas were hot but not very flavorful. We ordered the appetizer sampler, and it was lackluster -- all the flavors were muddy and nothing was hot, either in flavor or in temperature. The chile en Nogada was also only lukewarm; the chile was tough and the sauce was sweet and one dimensional. This meal was all the more disappointing because the first dish we were served -- chicken lime soup -- was delicious: rich and chickeny with slice of peeled lime. Even at half price (after the certificate) it wasn't worth it. A couple of nights later we had dinner at Otaez in Alameda that was twice as good and half the price.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    That's too bad. When they opened they had a nice salsa bar. It seems like since the SF restaurant closed they have been going downhill. I'm always surprised to see the Emeryville location is still open, but I guess the combo of them delivering and being close to a lot of businesses in a restaurant-lite area favored them.

                    Cocina Poblana
                    499 Embarcadero West, Oakland, CA 94607