Oaxacan Restaurant found! Cotati / Rohnert Park
It kind of feels a bit like Law and Order lately as I go from person to person getting leads on the next culinary discovery.
The lady at the farmers market told me about a Bakery in Cotati called El Paso that unfortuntely did not carry any Oaxacan bread but frm which I had really decent rendition of a Pumpkin turnover. However, the owner of the bakery was a really nice wonderful woman who led me to a great discovery.
In my lament that no Oaxacan food was offered -other than tortas and mole negro paste there, she mentioned a restaurant -- "Carreno's" off Southwest blvd.
So off I was --- and reached the non-descript strip mall with a carneceria, joyeria and zapateria and nerby beheld the sign "Carreno's Authentica Comida Oaxaquena"!
A rush of joy flushed over me. I entered the restaurant - and I felt like Oax. restaurants I have been in on Pico Blvd in downtown LA. The walls were painted with murals of the Monte Alban ruins, portraits of Juarez, etc, wooden tequila bar.
Up front were 4 guys - 2 younger brothers one about 20 whom I communicated mainly with, a younger brother, their father and a friend.
They were all very friendly and really happy to share information about the restaurant - including that their mother was in Oaxaca on a supply trip - a good sign!
They offered me some paper menus - which I can give to local hounds if interested.
Among the Items available:
Tamales de mole en hoja de platano
Oaxacan Pan Dulce
I did not eat - but I cannot wait to give it a try. I have good hopes and aspirations for the place. Maybe we can have a chowdown here?
Carreno's Mexican Restaurant
157 Southwest Blvd.
Just got back from lunch there with a few co-workers. I'm pretty sure we'll have to go back again. I have to try a couple more moles and the Tlayudas. Location is where the old Thai Orchid used to be.
I'll start with the bad parts, but overall I'd say we had a positive experience and will have to return sometime.
Cons: bland refried beans. factory-tasting tortillas. slow.
Beans: somehow just bland... They had some cheese (queso anejo?) sprinkled on top, but were just kinda bland and lacking...
Tortillas: not bad. I just really like it when the place makes their own, these tasted more like what you get in a plastic bag at the grocery store...
Slow: I think total time was an hour and fifteen minutes from when we walked in until we paid and walked out. Most of that was waiting for the food... I noticed a number of people showing up to pick up orders they'd called in for takeout, making me think they're normally a bit slow. Other than us and the takeout there was a family that I think may have ordered one of everything (plates of food just kept coming for them).
Started us with chips and salsa. Chips were hot; probably just out of the frier. Salsa was a little bit different but nothing special (not bad, either).
I got chicken mole rojo. Tasty. Hard to describe the taste... sweet, a little spicy... complicated flavor... I really don't know what a mole rojo is supposed to taste like, but I liked this one. Beans and tortillas improved greatly with generous application of mole rojo. Horchata was tasty; sweet, cinammon, probably pretty typical for horchata.
One coworker got a "Burrito Oaxaquena" -- basically a super burrito smothered in mole (he went with rojo, but mole negro was also available). I gather he liked it, but felt there should've been some lettuce in there.
Another coworker got a tasajo platter. Same rice, beans and tortillas with as my dish. Thin cuts of meat, possibly grilled... Not much description, but apparently it was tasty.
Last coworker got chilaquiles con huevos. I didn't get a good look, but sure sounded like he liked them. I think he was hoping for scrambled eggs and got fried eggs instead, but made do just fine.
The proprietor (?) didn't seem to speak english particularly well, but was friendly and helpful (if a little slow with the service at times). I don't consider that particularly a negative, except that none of us really speak spanish.
I just spoke to Kare and gave him my feedback... so now I can post without tainting anyone's opinion. Like freigheit... I saw a good & bad. Overall, its got a small subset of Oaxacan dishes within a larger menu of the usual suspects that end up in characterless Cal-Mex eateries, its extremely slow & unpolished but if you order correctly you can have a very good meal. In summary, its several notches below the Oaxacan restaurants in West L.A.
I will start with the cons:
> In real Oaxacan places you don't get the crowded dishes with Tomatoe Rice, Refried Beans, Sour Cream, Salsa & Guacamole like you do here. Side dishes depend on the entree.... and things like Moles are served in dramatically minimalist fashion with a central item surround in sauce.... and maybe a small scope of garlicky, butter white rice.
> Because it has so many filler items like Nachos, Burritos, and some authentic but non Oaxacan dishes... we only get the most popular Oaxacan basics... no special soups, salads, plantain desserts etc.,
> The eatery had a big, loud jukebox.. but to my dissappointment not a single CD of Oaxacan music.
> No female presence in the construction of the menu or in the kitchen... so we don't get any motherly, caring or sensual, intriguing approaches to the cooking. The Carreno's come from a family of building material vendors... not restaurateurs... and the approach to food shows that a bit.
Now the positives...
> The guy manning the kitchen yesterday CAN short order cook. The entree I had was significantly better than a similar entree in Berkeley.
To the chow:
> I started off with a Michelada of Modelo Especial (spicy beer cocktail)... that was a bit sloppy but tastey & refreshing. I would sum it up as candy for machos.
> I paired that with the Molotes... an authentic Oaxacan antojito. These are a type of turnover, shapped like a torpedo.. stuffed with Potatoes & Chorizo... drizzled with two sauces... a Black Bean Sauce & a Light Green Pumpkinsee Sauce... on a bed of shredded lettuce. Not the best Molotes ever... but decent (the crust was not as tender, and the potatoe-chorizo filling was a bit bland).
> I then had the Enchiladas sauced with Mole Negro and stuffed with Chicken. These were absolutely excellent! The sauce is complex & herbal... with great aroma. The chicken is robustly spiced and griddled to a toothsome tenderness similiar to a good version of Teriyaki Chicken. They were topped with a bit of Queso Fresco & white onions for counterpoint. The mediocre rice, beans etc., went untouched but nothing remained of the Enchiladas.
> I order the stuffed Nopales with Cecina (spicy pork jerky) for the wife... and it wasn't good at all. The Nopales were just chopped & sauteed (I bet $20 they came out of a jar), the sauce was unbalanced... and they didn't know how to prepare the Cecina.
I will say it one more time... service is extremely slow so bring your patience.
I just got back from dinner at Carrenos with a friend from work.
Once again you will get a "meh -- good & (really) bad" reaction to this place, this time from me.
>>>> The (really) Bad:
First of all - I must think (& I know) that the mole negro enchiladas I recieved were completely opposite/different to those EN enjoyed. They were pretty awful. The sauce was (apoligize for a lack of a better adjectve) 'icky' and left a bad aftertaste. It tasted nothing but sweet. Almost like a sweet barbaque sauce. The chicken was inedible - I actually did not eat it - bits of gristly tendon, ligment chopped up and cold. I actually thought the rice was the best thing on the plate.
I cannot believe that they actually served this out. Dont order the mole negro. I cant tell how the tamales de mn were - as they were out.
The horchata was weak and immemorable - barely a pinch of pecans and a flimsy sliver of melon.
I appreciated the fresh fried chips and assertive flavorful salsa.
The tacos de chauplines were even better than the restaurant I used to get them in San Diego. The tortillas - despite being bought were, tender, hot and had a good chew. I suspect the crickets were very fresh as the two sons had just returned from Oaxaca with their 'booty' the day previous. I wanted to order more.
The molotes made the meal for me. Absolutely wonderful. I have never had these before. Hot crisp masa torpedos with a wonderful starch contrasted interior of chorizo laced papas. These were sauced with a tomatillo sauce and black bean puree (which should replacethe pintos on the plates!) on a bed of refreshing lettuce and queso fresco.
The young son who served us - I really admired - as it seemed like he ran the place alone. I felt bad almost - the father sat us but then dissapeared outside. Service is slow and non -existent at times due to this fact but I considering the circumstances...
On my way out I was offered one of the plentiful pan dulce bags from Oaxaca- among chiccharron and chiles de agua.
I will be back for the wonderous molotes and chauplines and maybe try a clayuda- but try not to think about the mole negro - or else the thought of it might spoil future meals.
That is funny.... we basically had opposite experiences there. One question... the guy doing the cooking was he a stocky guy with a bald / shaved head?
I am shocked about the black mole sauce... I don't know what they could have done to screw it up so bad (did it seem like it had ketcup in it perhaps?)
BTW... if you like the Molotes here.... you will really dig them at Monte Alban (WLA) if you ever make it back there.
"stocky guy with a bald / shaved head?"
-No - a different guy was in the kitchen. This is the owner who sat us I believe.
I know we were served a different sauce - I just dont know if they tasted it before plating it - man!
Monte alban sounds great! The mole amarillo and memelas at Antequera de Oaxaca is the best I have experienced.
>a Bakery in Cotati called El Paso ... mole negro paste there
Do you have any interest in trying their mole negro paste? I'm hoping you do so I can learn something :-) About six months ago I bought a bag of their mole negro paste and also some from Karen's in Petaluma. Four us loved the chicken mole we made with Karen's version. For the version from El Paso, one liked it a lot, as much as Karen's, one thought it was OK, and two of us (including me) didn't like it at all. There's a specific flavor in it, intentional I'm sure, that's not in Karen's and which we didn't like. I'm very curious what someone who really knows moles thinks about it.
re: Mick Ruthven
Hmmm...interesting. I wonder what it is -- as no two moles are alike - sometimes the process of burning chiles, tortillas etc plays a role which may have been to your distaste. Or even a raw flavor - did you fry bioth pastes in oil - to achieve a 'cooked' flavor before the addition of broth?