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Feb 25, 2008 08:30 PM

The Oaxacan Kitchen-Palo Alto

Continuing the quest for real Oaxacan Mole in the Bay Area, I noted an apparently new restaurant opening off California in Palo Alto called, the Oaxacan Kitchen. It has not yet opened. Palo Alto online had a brief article about it....i would be incredibly happy for a real Oaxacan restaurant in PA although I will confess to some fear based on restaurants like the nearby Sol being held up as the Bay Area mole gold standard. Yet....there appears reason for optimism. The owners are a couple...the wife from Oaxaca, the hubbie with much resto experience..and ...comments like "Oaxacan food is to Mexico like Parisian food is to France or Tuscan food is to Italy." and "Although there are tons of Oaxacan restaurants in Los Angeles, there are none here. None at all".
I have been disappointed before but it would be great not to have to go to LA or Chicago for a great mole......i will keep my eyes on its opening. Perhaps other like-minded mole fans can keep their eyes open for report when it opens.

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  1. These are the same folks that sell Oaxacan food at the Palo Alto and Sunnyvale farmers markets (may be at others too) - at least I heard them this summer say they had acquired space off of California Ave to open a restaurant. They do some things very traditionally, and I really want to love their food - they are so nice, but I find most of the food lacking in taste. The mole not complex, the masa bland. Things that are paired with the chorizo my husband says are good.

    Anyone else have better experiences?

    1. The mole at the "Sol" restaurants (I haven't been to Palo Alto Sol), just the one on El Camino (Vive Sol) does have some complexity but it is too sweet. I find the mole at La Fiesta in Mountain view to be similar (flavors are there, but too sweet). I really look forward to trying this place.

      1 Reply
      1. re: P. Punko

        Same ownership - Vive Sol and Fiesta del Mar...

      2. Here's the website

        At first I was rolling my eyes because they seem to be playing to the local audiance with things like Ensalada Caesar

        But wait ... the dinner menu looks really promising (pdf format)

        First, for Senor Eat_Nopal ... Ensalada de Nopalitos Grilled cactus salad with onions, avocado, and tomato tossed in anise vinaigrette.

        There are molotes, memelas, tlayudas, guacamole con totopos (Oaxacan crackers), barbacoa roja de chivo, tasajo, cecina o chorizo, Oven roasted chayote squash with garlic, onions and oregano.

        The Moles

        Mole Negro Con Pechuga o Pierna de Pollo o Espinazo de Puerco 15.95
        Our Mole Negro is made from over 23 different ingredients, some of which are chiles, nuts, seeds,chocolate, and spices. Served with choice of braised pork, chicken breast or thigh.

        Estofado con Pechuga o Pierna de Pollo o Espinazo de Puerco 12.95
        One of Oaxaca's special moles made from sesame seeds, tomatillos, chiles, raisins, olives and spices.Served with choice of braised pork, chicken breast or thigh. rice and corn tortillas.

        Amarillo con Res o Pechuga o Pierna de Pollo 13.95
        Chicken or Beef covered with Oaxacan yellow mole, colored with chilies and masa and flavored withspices. Served with rice and corn tortillas.

        Coloradito con Pechuga o Pierna de Pollo o Espinazo de Puerco 14.95
        Oaxaca's home made reddish mole from chiles, nuts, seeds, chocolate, and spices. Served with choice of braised pork, chicken breast or thigh. Rice and corn tortillas.

        Mole Verde con Pechuga o Pierna de Pollo o Espinazo de Puerco 13.95
        Green beans, chayote squash and potatoes in a mildly spicy broth with herbs, Yerba Santa, epazote andgreen chilies. Served with choice of braised pork, chicken breast or thigh. Rice and corn tortillas.

        There are dishes that sound delicious that migh appeal to the local crowd like Farm raised Scott Boy Ranch rack of lamb, marinated in garlic, fresh thyme and chilies.

        Desserts with possibilities
        Nicuatole - Gelatin dessert made from corn, cinnamon and sugar.
        Goat Milk Cajeta - With caramel sauce.
        Oaxacan homemade ice cream. Flavors change seasonally, Tuna, lime, and burnt sugar.

        They have sweet pineapple tamales (for five bucks that better be amazing)

        Playing to the people who might not be into Oaxacan some plays on local favorites ... the first one cracked me up since I spent quite a bit of time in Mexico staring at that volcano
        “Popocatepetl” Mexican Chocolate Lava Cake
        Tres Leches Bread Pudding - Warm three milk bread pudding scented with frangelico liquor, candied pecans,vanilla cinnamon sauce.

        There's also stuff like churros, Oaxacan hot chocolate and ... ice cream floats (?)

        1 Reply
        1. re: rworange

          ...mmmm Anise vinaigrette sounds intriguing. BTW... most people forget to mention it... but the Oaxacans really have a way with salads... people only talk about the Moles but some of the best salads I've had have been from Oaxacan cooks.

          Overall, the menu seems typical of a Valle de Oaxaca / Zapotec menu which is what you get in L.A.... sounds promising.

          1. re: Hapa Dude

            I just called the phone nbr on the web site and got a recording - still the same message re opening Spring 2008. I'll try to drive by in the next day or so and take a look...
            website is fully up and running:

            The Oaxacan Kitchen
            2323 Birch St, Palo Alto, CA 94306

            1. re: RWCFoodie

              I took a look at the place on Saturday and it looks like the dining room is finished and the hardware in the open kitchen is installed, but I saw no menus, place settings or hours posted.

              1. re: Humbucker

                Thanks - you saved me a trip. I'll check it out over the next few weeks and see what happens...

                1. re: RWCFoodie

                  They are at the Los Altos Farmers Market on State St on Thurs., 4-8 pm (not a year-round market). I was still full from lunch today so just had a watermelon drink, drooled over the offerings and asked about the restaurant: they are still working their way thru the intricacies of the city of Palo Alto building dept. - it's going to be a while according to the woman I was speaking with (sounded like she was one of the owners).

                  1. re: RWCFoodie

                    Yeah I happened to wander by that area yesterday and they looked like they are ready to go. I am always fearful when there is a such a delay in opening as the owners are just have their cash sucked away while waiting for the various and myriad government agencies to complete their tasks.

                    1. re: tomritza

                      The web site says that opening day is a week away on August 8. Hope it's good!


          2. Saturday morning I had a chance to try the Oaxacan Kitchen booth at the Palo Alto farmers market.

            Day's menu

            I have to agree that the food could use a flavor boost, and especially more salt and oil. My memela was more like a thickish tortilla. Wish I'd looked at the overhead photograph before ordering and then I would realize that the "fresh masa" in the description would be flattened and dry-griddled instead of a plump and browned masa cake. The tortilla thingie was tough and undercooked and hard to cut with a plastic fork. Its integrity was further insulted by the run-off from the inadequately drained pair of poached eggs. On the plus side, the queso fresco was fresh as can be, the eggs rich and runny-yolked, and the spicy mole was indeed that. It was not however very "negro" nor complex. The other two sauces, an avocado-based one and the other seemed like tomatillo, were undersalted too. The whole plate took a turn for the better when I went back to the stand and asked for a salt shaker. A liberal sprinkle over the whole thing made it taste much better. I'll mention that I'm one who almost never adds salt at the table.

            Memela con huevos

            I also tried a hot chocolate and that fared much better. I liked the directness of the chocolate without a lot of butterfat.

            I had a chance to ask the proprietor when the restaurant would open. He said that the inspection by the fire department was completed on Thursday and he hoped to open in two weeks. He also told me that the restaurant would feature churros with chocolate. I asked if the churros would be fried to order and he said, "YES."

            4 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Hi Melanie,

              I'm glad to read you went -- I have tried their food at the farmer's market and remember liking their negro tamale. I walked by the restaurant today (too early for lunch), and hope to try it for dinner sometime this week.

              1. re: DeeGlaze

                I'm dying to hear a report on the CHURROS!

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Went there for dinner tonight: it was excellent. In reverse course order:

                  I had the churros. Fresh'n'hot from the fryer, coated in cinnamon sugar. Tender and moist on the inside, with a pleasant saltiness. Went perfectly with their Mexican hot chocolate, which was served in a bowl. My only comparison of this dessert is the churros+chocolate from Bistro Luneta (Filipino resto in San Mateo), which was also delicious, but of a different style: slightly more dense churros and thicker, less spiced chocolate than Oaxacan Kitchen's.

                  My spousal unit got the Chocolate Experience, consisting of a molten chocolate cake, chocolate-corn ice cream and hot chocolate. He really enjoyed it, but I preferred my own dessert. ;-)

                  For the main dish, I had the chile relleno with picadillo. Oh. My. Wow. Now, I do like chiles rellenos in general, but the usual version stuffed only with cheese and deep battered fried gets a bit a heavy and unexciting at times. But the picadillo one is filled with shredded chicken, nuts and raisins. It came with red Spanish rice, and some of the best refried beans I've ever had. I usually feel just so-so about beans, but theirs consisted of black beans puréed into something like a flavorful dip, much more interestingly spiced (more epazote? other spices?).

                  My SU got the enmoladas, consisting of chicken chunks on a large corn tortilla generously topped with their mole negro and queso fresco. He was quite happy with it, although I found the side of zucchini and winter squash somewhat undercooked. Again, another case were I found my dish superior to a companion's. ;-)

                  For a starter we shared 3 sauces and chips, called "salsas y mole de la casa," featuring a chipotle salsa (smokey), a tomatillo salsa (tart yet sweet), and a mole I hadn't had before, coloradito. The Oaxacan Kitchen's mole negro is probably my favorite of its kind that I've had (e.g., I don't like the mole negro from La Fiesta, Fiesta del Mar, etc., way too sweet-bland for me). But their mole coloradito just might surpass their mole negro! It's nutty and spicy with a wonderful creaminess from plantains.

                  I look forward to going back. And to purchasing more moles at the farmers' market.

                  1. re: sairuh

                    Thanks a bunch for a great chow report, and especially for the word on the churros! I'm also tucking away the intell on Bistro Luneta's version in the churro memory banks . . . sounds closer to Spanish style.

                    Bistro Luneta
                    615 3rd Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94401