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Apr 10, 2002 05:34 PM

Guelaguetza vs. Monte Alban

  • l

Back when the monkeyboyfriend and I lived off Venice Blvd., we frequented the Palms Guelaguetza and liked it very much (never eaten at the other locations). But I have been hearing a lot of good noise about Monte Alban, which is closer to the new monkeypad.

Tell me, good chowhoundians, of the Westside Oaxacan joints about town, which is the best (best being a relative term, but you get the picture)?

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  1. Have always liked the Palms operation, but never tried the others. Have not tried the Alban, but have tried Juquila at 11619 Santa Monica Blvd at 310-312-1079 and must say they are definitely worth a try and at least the equal of the Guel. The plate of lengua that passed by headed for someone's table looked wonderful and humongous. My enchilada and taco were equally so (ordered to go).

    3 Replies
    1. re: carter
      Leslie Brenner

      LAmonkeygirl, there was a thread on exactly this debate about two months ago. In it, I came down squarely on the Monte Alban side. However, I had a less than spectacular meal there recently. Juquila, on the other hand, is amazingly good! I've been eating there quite a lot lately--I've become addicted, you might say. At moment, it's my Oaxacan of choice. To my taste, it blows Gueleguetza (Palms location) out of the water. If you're two people, there's a huge sampler (I think it's called Botana Oaxaqueña, or something like that--I know I posted about it. Try doing on a search for Juquila if you're interested). Anyway, it's marvellous.

      We'd love to hear where you fall on the issue!

      1. re: Leslie Brenner

        Where is Juquila? I used to enjoy the Palms Guelaguetza but it's been a while and recent posts comparing Palms & Olympic indicate Olympic is the way to go. Went to Monte Alban's for the first time last week and was underwhelmed by my dry sliced pork leg and the mole on my friend's fat chicken breast which seemed cornstarch-thickened (is that possible?), although he liked it. The chicken soup was lovely (great clear broth) although it needed seasoning.

        1. re: Deborah
          Leslie Brenner

          Deborah, Juquila is at 11619 Santa Monica Blvd., a block or two east of Barrington. It's on the same block as Saigon and Cafe 50's. Sorry to hear that you had a not-great meal at Monte Alban, too. I wonder what's going on there; it really was great a few months ago.

    2. Monte Alban is, to my tastes, careful, dessicated, lacking in life. Something to do with the lack of lard, I think, and something about the lack of love. I can't trace it down exactly. It is fussily perfect without any guts. I'll take guts and screaming vibrant life over carefulness any day.

      Juquila is much better for the west-side. It varies - I think there's one very good chef and a not-so-good secondary chef. Mole Negro, and chiliquiles with pork in a deep pureed tomato sauce, are my favorites. Specials are always great.

      I think I understand a debate that passed between Leslie and myself a while ago. I preferred Guelagetza, and she preferred Monte Alban. Leslie just mentioned the inferiority of the Palms Guel to Monte Alban. Total agreement here - the Palms location is kind of slap-dash and spice-happy without care. The 8th street Guel (I can't speak to the Olympic Guel) is one of my favorite places in town. Juquila is comforting and very tasty, the 8th street Guel near holy. THAT Mole Negro has care, finesse, and screaming soul.


      1 Reply
      1. re: Thi N.

        Oh, also - my second favorite dish at the 8th street Guel is the enchiladas in red mole (not the enchiladas in bean sauce) with the pork. Cecina, I think, is the Spanish. The red mole is deep but, unlike the black mole, bright and sweet and high, and contrasts nicely with the slightly charred, chewy/crisp thin fried(?) sheet of pork that's layed over them.


      2. I usually do takeout from Monte Alban since the decor is so sparse and drab. I think their mole negro is more complex than the Palms Guelaguetza, but the latter cooks up a mean funky birria :)

        When I take out-of-towners or newbies to experience the joys of Oaxaquan, i usually endup at Tlapazola on Gateway/Barrington.... it's mini-mallish but doesn't feel like a dive.

        Right now, my personal westside mole favorite is El Sazon on Washington Place/Washington over in Palms. The sauce is sweeter than the others.

        Since they're all within 20 minutes of each other, you're best bet would be a taste-off!

        1. I was at the Palms Guel. for Sunday lunch. Every seat was filled and when a table emptied it was filled again in just minutes. This continued for an hour and a half. Still full when we left. I was careful to look at what the 90% Hispanic crowd was ordering. Besides Clayudas, they had a dish of ribs in a red tomato sauce, pork chops, lots of things that I have never ordered. I ordered the pork ribs and they were quite tender and flavorful served with a big bowl of Black Beans, rice, tortillas. I also ordered Champurrado, thick, chocolatey, came with a dry sweet roll. After a couple of bites I tried dunking it and that was the ticket. I guess the test of an authentic restaurant is if the people from that country eat there and like it. There are about 5 Oxacan restaurants within about 5 miles of Guel. but I have never seen the others this busy, ever.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Just Larry
            Leslie Brenner

            >>I guess the test of an authentic restaurant is if the people from that country eat there and like it.

            I would beg to differ. I've been in dozens of mediocre (or even poor) restaurants filled with diners of the same ethnicity as the cuisine who seemed to be enjoying the food. Then of course we get into the old "authentic" vs. "good" debate, which has been pretty well-covered in recent months on these boards.

            1. re: Leslie Brenner

              When I go to a restaurant with "good" food that is empty, I worry about the freshness of the ingredients. When the place is empty, would you order Mojarra Fritta? I think a crowd says something about a place and if the crowd is the ethnicity of the restaurant so much the better. My lunch was very good and lots of emptied plates continued to be collected regularly. Baja Cantina in Marina Del Rey is packed with mostly non Latino people and the food is totally not authentic. My in-laws that don't like Mexican food, love it there.