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Blackberry Mole at La Casita

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Twelve of us dined at La Casita last night. We got much more than we bargained for. This tiny little restaurant that features the regional cooking of Puebla and Oaxaca deserves high praise. I know that blackberries are abundant in the forests of the hills of Oaxaca. So when Chef Ramiro said he was going to give us a sample of a special dish of mole de zarzamora, I was both a little skeptical and pleased. How can you go wrong with blackberries?
This was a dish to write home about. The fish was ordinary pollack, light and tasty, genorously laced in that dark mole sauce with a subtle flavor of the berries. It was a favorite dish of all those that we tasted last night.
Here's the menu. Some of this is from the regular menu and some of it was the chef's choice from whatever looked good at the produce market yesterday.

Tomato soup of rice and potatoes
Chilaquiles divorceadas
Tortillitas de camaron (little shrimp cakes dipped in batter, fried then laced with a red sauce with nopalitos)
Fish in zarzamora mole (blackberry mole)
Pork in pipian (green mole)
Chicken mole two ways. Half in red mole and half mole negro
Chiles en nogadas (stuffed with dried fruit and minced pork.) Yes, they still had pomegrante seeds.
Chiles rellenos with fresh corn and squash in chile rojo
Cauliflower dipped in egg batter and fried
Handmade corn tortillas with chile or cactus in the masa
Desserts:
Guavas in rompope (Mexican egg nog liquor)
Bananas in sweet cream.
If you want to try this for yourself you MUST call ahead so they can have the ingredients on hand. Also, it seems like that last few times we have gone to La Casita there has been a wait. So do call ahead if you plan to be their during dinner rush hour.

Cecilia

www.lacasitamex.com

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  1. Sounds wonderful! And I NEVER thought I'd see Cauliflower dipped in egg batter on a Mexican restaurant menu! It's one of my favorite things My Grandma and Monther make! :)

    --Dommy!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Dommy

      You're lucky Dommy, my Mom only steamed the cauliflower. I loved the it cooked this way too. It seemed almost like there was a touch of something creamy in the middle...like crema fresca? Or the cauliflower developed a creaminess all on it's own. I could order this dish everytime I'm there. This recipe could convert a veggie-hater.
      Cecilia

      1. re: sassille

        Nope, it's the cauliflower that turns all melty because the batter really protects it while it fries up so it doesn't dry out, but concentrate inside.... :)

        --Dommy!

      2. re: Dommy

        Same here, along with the tortas de camarones and lentejas :)

        Sassille -- is this a special menu for Cuaresma only?

        1. re: Ernie

          I was at the restaurant a couple of weeks ago and chef Jaime said if I called ahead he would do some lenten dishes for us. My little dinner party turned into a group of 12. So the Blackberry Mole and the rest of the menu evolved from his suggestions and ordinary menu orders from our party. One thing I noticed was that if you have a hankering to try three styles of mole, they sent out a chicken enchilada napped in the three sauces. It looked like a great way to see which one you like the best.
          I can't emphasize enough that they can get crowded on weekends and you should try to call ahead. The kitchen is small and the place seats maybe 40. I think their local popularity has risen sharply since they started doing cooking segments on channel 34's early morning show, (I think it's called Univision?)

      3. The meal was fabulous and that fish with the blackberry mole was definitely the star of the evening. I did take pics and will include a link to them once I get a chance to upload them.

        1. The link didn't work for me. Where is this place? Sounds fantastic.

          4 Replies
          1. re: teaeye

            Here is a working link to their website:

            http://www.casitamex.com/home.html

            1. re: teaeye

              4030 E. Gage Ave.
              It's about 1 mile west of the 710. It's a simple storefront located on the south side of the street next door to a tortillaria who makes their masa fresh for La Casita daily. I've been to so many Mexican restaurants on the eastside, IMHO this is the finest. (and I was born and raised in ELA having spent decades trying every little hole in the wall on the eastside!) The first experience I had at this place intrigued me. Their Queso Azteca was wrapped in banana leaves and served with ultra-fresh tortillas that had epazote leaves in the masa. I knew I had to go back and try random offerings from the rest of the menu. A favorite thing I like to order is the queso fundido with chorizo and just sit back with that and the hot tortillas.
              Honestly, I prefer La Casita to Babita. Not just because their prices are pocket friendly, but the chefs have this mission to bring the food of their grandmothers to our table. I also MUCH prefer it over Monte Alban, where their mole was good but not THIS good. Also, I had a dismal experience at Monte Alban the first time I went and had to make an effort to return and give it another chance. Its good for Westside convenience. But that's all.
              Here's what a restaurant critic has to say about La Casita. Scroll to the bottom of the article to find the review.
              http://www.davidrosengarten.com/conte...

              Cecilia

              1. re: sassille

                This is one of our favorite places but we try to go at odd hours to beat the crowd. Have you ever tried their white mole? It's only available on the weekends and we usually go during the week so I've never had the pleasure. It sounds sooooo good.

                1. re: Neta

                  Yes, I have tried the white mole. It's a little mild for me. I prefer spicier foods. Its a blend of spices in a white sauce with white chocolate. It seems to me that the subtle white chocolate flavor subdues those spices I actually did try to order it at our last meal there so the rest of the party could taste it. The chef said they don't have it anymore. Maybe they would take a special request if you called ahead of time.
                  Cecilia

            2. OOOH! BERRY mole!!!! chiles en nogadas!

              Gotta get there! Gotta drag the Pup there (and he's now 16, so less easy to drag on 'hounding expeditions against his will!)

              1. This sounds great. Thanks for sharing!

                1. This is a place where you can have a true Mexican feast. None of the Tex-Mex shex.....

                  The blackberry mole w/ fish was outstanding! You have to call ahead to order it though. And don't forget to end with guavas in rompope (Mexican eggnog liquor). They are addictive! The chile relleno con hongos y nopales is on their regular menu and it is excellent.

                  Their regular mole negro is divine as well. One word of advice is not to fill up on the tortilla chips. They serve it with a bit of the red, green and black mole on top. It is the perfect preview into the caliber of sauces to be expected.

                  Once again I have had a fabulous Mexican meal and will continue to go back there. Ramiro and Jaime are not only great chefs, but awesome warm people as well.

                  1. Here's Jonathan Gold's take on this place from today's L.A. Weekly. I got a feeling it's going to get very crowded in this tiny little storefront in Bell.
                    http://www.laweekly.com/eat+drink/cou...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sassille

                      Wonderful!! Everytime I think of them, it reminds me of the last great Mexican restaurant in Bell, Casa Frida. Which had such ambitions and actually got written up in the times, but never caught on. I hope this signals the opposite for them... :)

                      --Dommy!

                      1. re: Dommy

                        Well, after all of this, I chose La Casita for my Birthday dinner and sadly, it did not live up to the hype. First, if you've never read chowhound, read the raves and articles, one would think that this place is your typical 'platillo' restaurant. The Enfrijoladas Jonathan mentioned, not on the menu, the Chilaquilles Divorciados Abby mentioned, not on the menu, the Fried Cauliflower above... again... not on the menu. The menu is basically meat plates, mole plates, two soups and flautas plates. There are intersting touches here and there, but nothing as impressive as the menu of Babita or even La Huasteca. They don't even offer a chef's tasting menu, like La Huasteca... I understand that many of those dinners written about have been 'special', but still, I expected the menu to reflect those meals.

                        The atmosphere is also very causual. It doesn't have the formality of Babita or La Huasteca. It's by no means a whole in the wall, but it doesn't really set a 'mood' either... And now to the chow...

                        We started with a Sopa de Habas, which was a unique touch, I love Habas! Sadly, the soup was very plain. It had a couple of slices of cactus which added NOTHING to the soup. There was no earthiness, no zing. It tasted like a standard split pea soup.

                        P. ordered the Purple Pozole because we LOVE pozole. ACK! Just like the previous soup it really lacked dimension. Even when you added the accompaniments. Plus it had this harsh Cumin note that overwhelmed everything. The Pozole at the Mercado La Paloma stand, Taqueria Villa Hermosa is 100% better than this.

                        To go with, he got the Enchilada Mole Sampler with Chicken. The Red Mole was flat. Much better version can be found at Gueleguetza. The Pipian was nice, but a bit grainy and not creamy. The Mole Poblano, was... to be honest... INFURIATING. Mole Poblano is my favorite version, nothing makes me more upset than people dismissing mole because 'it's too sweet... it's weird to have chocolate sauce on meat..." When you've had a GOOD mole poblano, it's not sweet, it's not chocolately... it's balanced, it's slightly spicy, it's nutty, it's smokey, it's so complex that if you didn't know Chocolate was in it, it's inclusion would be a surprise. This version can only be discribed one way... SWEET!! Bleh... For better Mole Enchiladas, I'd take Tamayos anyday...

                        My family mostly had meat plates. Again, nothing that made them go wow (Although they did think the little papas taco was cute). The Carne Asada really had no special flavor, just meat. The Cecina was nice, but as always a bit too salty for my taste. The handmade tortillas were wonderful and the beans the accompany spicy. The salsas were also VERY nice... So they did enjoy their meal.

                        And for me, I had the Chiles en Nogada. One of my FAVORITE dishes on this planet. I admit, I'm a harsh critic because I've had several version here in the U.S. as well as Mexico (including probably over 10 versions in Mexico City alone). Having just had Babita's version for Valentines day.. there is NO comparison. Again, the white sauce was painfully sweet, there was absolutely no note of the walnut flavor. The Chile was cooked very well... but the ground beef inside was so beefy and firm that it completely made the addition of raisins irrelevant.

                        There was one thing that La Casita made that DID completely blow me away. Their white rice. I am NOT kidding, that was some AMAZING rice. P. and my Bro totally agreed too... So when you go... get dish with the rice... It helped SAVE my plate of Chiles En Nogada.

                        To be honest, In the end, I wished I had taken my parents to Babita (Especially since my mother spent her Childhood in Mexico City and is a HARSH critic on Mexican food). But I must say I am glad that La Casita does exisit and I do wish them well, Their work does help elevate the cuisine, just not at a level that I hoped.

                        --Dommy!