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The Exquisite Heat of Oaxaca - Monte Alban [Review] w/ Pics!

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One of the nicest things to have is a good comfort food restaurant; a local spot that you know can provide good meals at fair prices. It's something that's easily taken for granted, but something that should be cherished as well. Here in Southern California, not only do we have a plenty of good, ol' American comfort food restaurants, but also a bounty of ethnic eateries providing wonderful permutations. And for Mexican cuisine, Monte Alban is one of the most popular choices.

Over the last half-year that I've visited Monte Alban, it has consistently provided a good "go-to" restaurant when you're in the mood for tasty comfort food, and the fact that it specializes in cuisine from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, makes it that much more endearing.

One of my favorite drinks is Horchata (a sweet Rice-based drink), and Monte Alban serves up 2 versions, a straight Horchata and the Horchata Con Nieve (Home-made Rice drink with Cactus Sorbet), which is a fresh, house-made version, complete with Walnuts and some scoops of a Sorbet made from Cactus. It's refreshingly sweet, without being saccharin.

Besides the Horchata, Monte Alban offers a really nice variety of drinks, including a newfound favorite: Agua De Tuna (Juice of Fresh Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit). When the juice first arrived, I was struck by the beautiful color, and then worried it was all food-coloring, but relieved to find out that that was the actual, all-natural color of the Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit. It had a great Melon taste, a hint of Watermelon flavors with something distinctly unique, and with a light sweetness that was never too cloying.

Monte Alban has a really nice variety of Oaxacan Appetizers (Antojitos Oaxaquenos) that goes beyond the standard mainstream selections. Over my multiple visits, we've tried a variety of their specialties. On one of my earliest visits, we ordered their Tamal De Mole (Steamed Corn Dough with Chicken and Black Mole (pronounced "Mo-Leh") Sauce).

Their Tamal De Mole is much larger than the usual Tamale found at many local restaurants, served wrapped in a Banana Leaf. Monte Alban's version is striking visually and taste-wise, with nice chunks of Chicken and their Black Mole Sauce, which really adds a good spicy, smoky and sweet facet to the dish.

Another excellent Appetizer is the Empanada De Flor De Calabaza (Grilled Turnover with Squash Blossoms, Oaxacan Cheese, Mushrooms, Molcajete Salsa). Like the Tamal, Monte Alban's version of the Empanada isn't the usual preparation (in this case, it's not baked or fried), but a grilled version, and from my first visit and on, it's been a good way to start a meal. :)

One of the things I enjoy about their grilled version is that it's a lot less oily and heavy than many versions. The Squash Blossoms are wonderful with the Oaxacan Cheese and Mushrooms, and the Molcajete Salsa adds a good spiciness.

One note is that Monte Alban's "Tacos" are different from the usual small street tacos found at taco trucks around L.A.: They are served with a huge Corn Tortilla. I found their Taco De Cecina (Taco with Marinated Pork Leg Meat) to be a nice variation on Al Pastor or Adobada. Their Cecina Pork is a lot more spicy and smoky than Al Pastor or Adobada, and the meat has been decent (usually moist, but sometimes a touch too dry for my tastes).

But perhaps my favorite appetizer on their menu is the Taco De Barbacoa (Hand-made Corn Tortilla with Goat Meat, Onions, Cabbage, Cilantro). It's always nice to find a place serving Barbacoa de Chivo (Goat), and Monte Alban's version is really flavorful and tender. They take the Goat and wrap it with a special type of Hoja De Aguacate (Avocado Leaves), spices, and Avocado Root, before cooking everything together, giving it a really delightful, earthy, fragrant goodness. It's tied with La Morenita for my favorite version of this dish. :)

One Entree that's nice as an Appetizer to share with the table is their Clayuda Cecina, a Toasted 11" House-Made Corn Tortilla with Marinated Pork Leg Meat, Black Bean Paste, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado, Salsa, Cabbage, Cilantro and Cheese, almost like a "Mexican Pizza" in a way.

The Clayuda Cecina is interesting, fun and so tasty! :) The super-thin, cracker-like crust is a great texture contrast with the rest of the ingredients. The fresh Cabbage, Avocado, Tomatoes and Cilantro, really add a great Spring-like feel to each bite, and a great counterpoint to the fresh-made Black Bean paste, and strips of Marinated Pork Leg. The Marinated Pork is lightly spicy, and works well here. My only complaint is that they don't provide enough meat. (Note: You can also order the Clayuda with Quesillo (Oaxacan-style String Cheese), Tazajo (Salted Round Beef), Pollo (Chicken), or Chorizo (Pork Sausage).)

But perhaps the most famous dish at Monte Alban is their Mole Negro dinner (Chicken Breast covered with their famous Oaxacan Black Mole Sauce, served with White Rice). Their Mole Negro is made up of 30 different spices(!), Seeds, Herbs and Chocolate, as well as extensive toasting of 5 special Chiles. Our waitress would only divulge three of them to us when we asked: Chile Ancho, Uajillo and Molato Chile. :)

The first time I ordered it, I was struck by just how truly *complex* their Mole Negro Sauce was: It was smoky sweet, yet still giving off slightly bitter notes (in a good way), and it had a nice, subtle heat that built up ever so slightly while you were eating it. If you've never had Mole Sauce before, this is a great starter. The only problem I have with this plate is their Chicken Breast: Since Monte Alban serves 5 different types of Mole, for the sake of flexibility, they boil / cook their Chicken Breast separately, and then top it with the Mole Sauce of your choice. This leads to the inside of the Chicken being rather plain, and forcing you to dip the simply boiled Chicken Breast into the Mole Sauce around the dish as you eat. But the Sauce is strong enough and plentiful enough for the meal, but I feel it would taste much better if the meat was cooked with the Mole.

There are many varieties of Mole from Oaxaca, and Monte Alban serves up 5 of them. On another visit, we tried their Estofado De Pollo (Chicken Breast covered with Estofado Mole (Tomato-based Mole Sauce), served with White Rice). While I enjoyed the Mole Negro dish previously, after having their Estofado Mole, it quickly became my new favorite! :)

Their Estofado Mole has a Tomato base, but they also use Raisins, Olives, Sesame Seeds, Almonds, Walnuts and Bananas, in addition to other spices. The result is something more naturally sweet than the Black Mole Sauce (which has a more Chocolate edge), while still having a good savory facet. Like the Mole Negro dish, they serve this with Boiled Chicken Breast (separately cooked) with the sauce quickly poured on top. It was still very tasty, but the dish would've benefited if the Chicken were cooked with the Mole for a little bit of time at least.

Another famous Mole Sauce at Monte Alban is their Coloradito (Chicken Breast covered with Oaxacan Red Mole Sauce, served with White Rice). This Red Mole Sauce is more akin to their Mole Negro, except that instead of the 5 heavily toasted Chiles as the base, Monte Alban uses 3 untoasted Chiles as the center - Guajillo, Chile Ancho, Chile Morita - and no Chocolate.

Their Coloradito / Red Mole turned out to be surprisingly sweeter than the Mole Negro Sauce, but not as smoky or complex. It had a slightly spicier burn, but still mellow. This was my least favorite of the Mole Sauces at Monte Alban.

Their Amarillo De Res (Yellow Mole Sauce with Chunky Beef and White Rice) is amazing! Their Yellow Mole is created using Hoja de Yerba Santa (Yerba Santa Leaf) as the base, with Pepper, Cumin, Dried Chiles and about 10 Spices (versus the 30 Spices in the Black Mole). The result is so light and airy, almost like a Consomme base! But the Amarillo also has the spiciest, direct heat, but it's not "hot for hot's sake": There's a beautiful, immediate spiciness that tastes natural. When combined with their Beef, it's a great contrast to their other Mole dishes. (^_^)

Finally, their Verde De Puerco (Green Mole Sauce over Pork Leg Meat with White Rice) turned out to be the best surprise.

Monte Alban's Green Mole Sauce is made with Hoja De Epazote (Epazote Leaf), Mejorana, Oregano, Tomatillo, Green Tomatoes and Cumin, along with other fresh herbs, and I found this and the Amarillo (Yellow) Mole to be my new favorites (beating out the Tomato Mole :). This is most savory of all the Mole Sauces at Monte Alban, with an absolutely exquisite heat that builds in this dish. It's less in-your-face than the Yellow Mole, but still stronger than the other 3. Like the Yellow Mole, I tasted an almost Consomme note, but more herbally and just beautifully paired with the Stewed Pork.

From the first time I stepped inside, I could tell this was a good, relaxing local eatery: A simple, homely interior, with all the tables decorated with traditional manteles-type table cloth. Service has been consistently good for a comfort food restaurant, no complaints. We average about ~$17 - 20 per person (including tax and tip), depending on the Appetizers and Entrees ordered.

Ultimately, Monte Alban is a nice neighborhood eatery, focusing on good Oaxacan comfort food. From the tasty, refreshing Drinks like their Cactus Fruit Juice, to their nice variety of unique Appetizers, to their 5 complex and standout Mole Sauces, Monte Alban delivers. It may not be as fancy and creative as Babita (which is great in its own right (^_~)), but when you're in the mood for something more down-to-earth, Monte Alban is a good choice for tasty comfort food.

*** Rating: 7.9 (out of 10.0) ***

Monte Alban
11929 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
Tel: (310) 444-7736

Hours: Mon - Fri, 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Sat - Sun, 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 Midnight

Monte Alban
11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

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  1. Attached more pics. For the rest of the pictures, please see the Link in the original post above, thanks!

    1. At this point, I am considering printing out your posts, categorizing them, and placing the compilation in my car. Another fine write-up on a place that all of us love but may not get this kind of detailed comprehensive attention that it deserves. I truly enjoy barbacoa as well - I'm a relatively recent convert (about two years now) over to things that go, "bahh-ah-ah-ah-ah..." I will make a point of trying their barbacoa de chivo.

      I felt the same about the chicken breast. I know it wouldn't be feasible to braise chicken in each of their moles, but I think they should take the license to decide for us which should be. I've had pollo con mole negro elsewhere, where this combo seems to be a standard, and the results braising are sublime (and finger lickin' good by necessity). The complexity of their mole negro would result in, well, much better than sublime.

      We've never walked away disappointed here - I think this says a lot as we always try to order something untried. The quality/price ratio is very high - I could in no way replicate most things here. I'd personally give them an 8+ score, but that's just me... :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: bulavinaka

        Hi bulavinaka,

        Thank you; you're too kind! (^_^;;

        Yah, I've had lesser Mole dishes at other restaurants where they cooked the meat with the Mole Sauce, and it just infuses the flavors much better. But even besides that, their 5 Mole Sauces are definitely standout and so enticing. :)

        If they had their meats braising in the Mole Sauces for better flavor infusion, I would've put it over 8.0. :) But overall it's still really enjoyable.

      2. another fantastic review, exilekiss. I've been wondering about how their barbacoa would be...

        1 Reply
        1. re: epop

          Hi epop,

          Thanks. :) Definitely some great Barbacoa to be had there.

        2. Great review! They also do a wonderful nopalitos salad and birria...


          1 Reply
          1. re: Dommy

            Hi Dommy,

            Thank you! And thanks for the great tip on the Nopalitos Salad and Birria. I've been craving it for a while and missed seeing it on the menu for my last visit. One more reason to go back and try something else. :)

          2. Another great review! I love the mole negro and colaradito so much that I haven't ventured to try the tomato, green, or yellow moles...clearly I am missing out! I agree that it would be better if the meat was actually cooked in the mole sauce, but the only good thing about the sauce being separate is that they will put the sauce on anything you want...so it may be paired with chicken on the menu, but you can get it on the pork, or on a burrito, or whatever you want if you ask.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Nicole

              Hi Nicole,

              Thanks. Definitely try their other Moles the next time you go; they've become my favs! :)

              Good point about the sauce being on the side; they can be flexible with it... Hm... maybe some of their Barbacoa de Chivo with a side of the Amarillo Mole or Verde Mole! :)

            2. Exilekiss, couldn't have said it better.This place is a go to restaurant and always delivers solid Oaxaquena.Great to bring friends and newbies.

              But yeah, throw that darn chicken in the pot.Madre de dios!

              1 Reply
              1. re: streetgourmetla

                Hi streetgourmetla,

                Thank you. :) Good to know you also prefer the Pollo cooked with the Mole. :)

              2. I can only add that the molcajete oaxaquena is a fantastic feast. My wife and split it last night, alongside some queso fundido and guacomole. Thoroughly stuffed, thoroughly satisfied.

                We are sadly moving away from LA tomorrow and Monte Alban will be one of the small handful of things that we'll seriously miss.

                6 Replies
                1. re: glutton

                  Hi glutton,

                  Ooh, thanks for the tip! :) Was the Molcajete Oaxaquena very spicy overall?

                  Sorry to hear you're moving away, take care~

                  1. re: exilekiss

                    It's not very spicy overall but it is a TON of food. It's delicious food, but so much that you really have to share it. Thanks for the report!

                    1. re: mollyomormon

                      Hi molly,

                      Thanks for the tip. Is it so big that I have to share it with... 3 people? (or just 2 is fine?) Thanks.

                      1. re: exilekiss

                        no, i think two is fine and then get an app or something else to share. It's not just that it's huge, it's also that it's quite rich with all the cheese and that's sort of what necessitates the sharing.

                    2. re: exilekiss

                      There are some peppers in there that are spicy, but you can avoid those if you don't like spice. The dish is served steaming hot, though, so the bigger risk is burning your tongue. The actual molcajete does an amazing job of keeping the food hot for a long time after you order the dish, which means you can take your time eating it.

                    3. re: glutton

                      Hi Glutton-

                      We're moving out of L.A. next week, and in my "last meals" post I mentioned Monte Alban as one of the things I would miss. We used to live within a one minute walk of Monte Alban, so would be there frequently.

                      There were so many things that I loved on their menu, but I have to say that the chicken with the mole was not one of them. It was really dry the two times we ordered it. Perhaps if the chicken had been cooked in the mole it would have been different.

                      I just loved their tortilla soup and their chicken soup, and the carne asada. I did not like the white rice, but I've never been to Oaxaca so perhaps this is the rice that is served there.

                      I loved their salsa verde, which you have to ask for, or at least had to ask for in the past.

                      I loved those little chorizo pastries that they serve as an appetizer, but I've forgotten what they're called.

                      I would recommend Monte Alban highly and will miss it sorely.

                    4. I so want to go, I really do. But I have to be leery of mole places-nuts, you know. they kill me.
                      Do they have a good range of non-mole, non-nut dishes?

                      My nut able to eat husband adores mole, and I'd love to take him as a treat, as he's been working overtime-going in early, coming home late, commuting to Commerce from Sherman Oaks- for about two weeks.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Diana

                        The molcajete doesn't have nuts and it's delicious, although as I said above, it's kind of one of those dishes you have to share. Oh, and the huitalacoche quesadilla is awesome! There would be plenty of non-nut dishes you could eat.

                        1. re: Diana

                          Hi Diana,

                          I just called Monte Alban and spoke w/ the manager, and they confirmed 100% that their Amarillo (Yellow) Mole and Verde (Green) Mole have No Nuts in them at all. Those 2 happen to be my favorites at Monte Alban as well (see above). :)

                          They also have plenty of other items without nuts, and some great dishes featuring Oaxacan String Cheese, some Oaxacan pastries, etc. Their staff is always friendly (each time I've been) so you can ask them about which dishes have nuts or not as well.

                          1. re: exilekiss

                            Wow! thanks for making the call for me!

                            1. re: Diana

                              Diana, if you are LETHALLY allergic to nuts, you better make sure that each mole is prepared completely separately. What if a mortar and pestle are used to grind nuts for the mole negro and they aren't thoroughly cleaned before grinding the supposedly "nut-free" yellow and green moles. If even a slight residue could be fatal, maybe you should learn to make your own moles.

                              I remember reading about a guy that was allergic to shellfish. He stressed that fact to the waiter who then instructed the chef. The dish came back with no visible shellfish. He chowed down and died.

                              The chef hadn't cleaned the wok after making a shrimp dish.

                          2. re: Diana

                            Diana, Monte Alban is one of my favorite restaurants and I am also allergic to nuts. While we unfortunately cannot eat the moles, and after this thread it makes me want them more (!), they have a wonderful variety of other nutless items I love -- the clayuda as exilekiss lauded (though I thought it was normally topped with lettuce and not cabbage), sopa de azteca, enfrijoladas, chilaquiles, to name a few. From the starters, I also enjoy the molotes, the little fried pockets of potato/chorizo topped with the black bean paste used on the clayuda and enfrijoladas and lettuce and tomato.
                            Their tortas are also great and so cheap!

                          3. Your review makes me want to try this place again. I may be in the minority but I was not impressed with the chicken mole negro there - possibly because of the fact that they don't cook the chicken with it. Didn't compare to what I've had in Mexico.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: tdo

                              Hi tdo,

                              Yah, I agree with you: Their Chicken Mole Negro wasn't that impressive because the Chicken wasn't cooked with the Mole (as I mentioned above). But the Mole Sauces were really nice (compared to many places around L.A.). Give their Amarillo, Verde a try, though, since they offer it with different meats (that go much better). And their Chivo (Goat) is excellent. :)

                            2. This is a special place. On one of my walks I once saw an older oaxacan man in his West LA front yard cleaning the mix and drying the peppers for the mole. I stopped to talk to him and he said he's related to the Monte Alban family. Most restaurants don't do this.

                              1. Great review as always. I hate, hate, HATE boring bland white chicken breast meat. Give me dark meat any day. After our first time there, I've always asked to substitute pork. The mole flavor is still there and at least the pork has more flavor than eck! boiled chicken breast.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Jase

                                  Hi Jase,

                                  Thanks. :) That's a great suggestion! I didn't think to ask them to use their Puerco (Pork) or other meats instead of the Boiled Chicken Breast for their Mole Negro. I'll have to try it next time. :) (I should've realized this since they offer their Verde (Green) Mole and Amarillo (Yellow) Mole with different meats.)

                                2. The mole verde on the puerco is great, though the goat is so good that I tend to get that more often. For the mole negro, I prefer to order the tamale wrapped in banana leaf rather than the chicken breast--which I note you tried as an appetizer--I think it shows off the mole better and the chicken is moister and more flavorful than with the breast. Have you tried the moles or the goat at Guelaguetza on Palms near Sepulveda?

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: New Trial

                                    Hi New Trial,

                                    Thanks for the tip about Guelaguetza. I haven't tried it yet, but how do you like their Goat or Mole compared to Monte Alban? Thanks. :)

                                    1. re: exilekiss

                                      I haven't been the Palms location, but I find Guelaguetza's Mole to be superior to Monte Alban. I'm not sure if Guelagetza serves Goat actually... but I never really explored the menu other than their great Moles, Empandas and Chile Rellenos...


                                      1. re: Dommy

                                        Thanks for the recs Dommy! :) I'll have to try their Moles and Empanadas soon.

                                      2. re: exilekiss

                                        In my opinion, they are roughly on par so I was curious to hear other takes. I find the mole negro to be slightly more intense at Gueleguetza (though they also can fall victim to the chicken breast problem you noted) but Monte Alban pulls ahead on the verde and amarillo. I would have to do a side-by-side on the coloradito (tempting!) and have not tried the tomato yet. I like the goat a bit better at Guelaguetza but both are terrific. Where Guelaguetza loses most points is on service which, while friendly, is sometimes scattered.

                                        1. re: New Trial

                                          Thanks New Trial. I always enjoy a good Chivo dish, and it's good to know about the service ahead of time. :) I'll report back after my visit. :)

                                    2. Monte Alban is my favorite for oaxacan - actually mexican, in general. I like to order a few things and share. Love the banana leaf tamal with black mole - so moist and flavorful, right down to the last bite! I also enjoy, as mentioned by exile, grilled empanadas with quesillo and flor de calabazas. They are so complex yet delicate in flavor. I also like their version of the clayuda quesillo... I always explain it as to newcomers as an ultra tasty tostada like they've never had before. I get so sad when friends on the westside suggest el cholo's in santa monica or don antonios on pico because it's that familiar goop.

                                      1. Great report. If you ever go down to Mexico City, you should by all means go to Casa Merlos (best Poblano, i.e. from the state of Puebla, food in Mexico). Your Monte Alban report reminded me of Casa Merlos - Oaxacan and Poblano food differences notwithstanding. Will surely give it a try (I am originally from Mexico, new to LA, after some years in London).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: D Hound

                                          Hi D Hound,

                                          Thank you. :) And thanks for the tip on Casa Merlos! I've made note of it. :) If you end up going to Monte Alban please report back.

                                        2. Oh, this review really makes me salivate for Monte Alban! I could really go for some clayudas/tlayudas right now. :) (We used to live down the street and were in there probably twice a week for many years, before we moved away to somewhere with absolutely zero edible Mexican food of any sort, let alone wonderful Oaxacan moles.... )

                                          I very much second the recs for the nopalitos, the molotes, and the tortas-- though I find that the bread they use for the tortas has a half-life of about an hour, so I recommend getting tortas for breakfast/lunch, while it's at its freshest and yummiest. :) Those empanadas are also great, when they have them. They don't always have the flor de calabaza, and I find the regular squash one not as special. I also sort of like the memelas-- it's not extremely exciting, but a comforty food that reminds me of a its eastern european cousin, mamalige. In the old days, they used to be quite accommodating about switching around which sauces went with which tamales, so you could get the rajas (vegetable) with various sauces if someone in your party didn't want meat. At some point they stopped doing that though--I guess they started preparing the rajas together with the sauce?

                                          Anyway, as mentioned in other posts, we've generally found the people who work here to be very friendly and willing to recommend what they think is good that day. From that point of view, I like them a lot better than Guelaguetza as a go-to neighborhood spot.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: another_adam

                                            Hi another_adam,

                                            Thanks for the additional recommendations. More great things to try for my next visit to Monte Alban. :)

                                            1. re: exilekiss

                                              Exile, make sure you try some of the breakfast items too! Aside from the eggs, I love the pan dulce in the big display up front. Also, just as a general rec, I find everything tastes better with a side of sliced avocado, which they will readily provide.

                                              1. re: a_and_w

                                                Hi a_and_w,

                                                Thanks for the recommendation. I'll definitely keep that in mind on my next visit. :)

                                          2. I utterly love their Mole Negro. It has a finish like a fine wine....long and lingering and complex. Mouth coating. Are there this last Friday and now, two days later, i still taste, in my mind, that Mole. Its a bit lessy spicy than a few that I have had which, in my view, reflects its magnificent balance. Nothing overwhelms, just blends, the hallmark of a great Mole.
                                            For those that find the chicken dry, try the Enchiladas with pork and the Mole Negro. The tortillas are small, folded and sprinkled with Queso Blano. I have found the pork to be moister and, quite honestly, think it matches better than the chicken with the Mole Negro. Service was, as usual,warm and professional.

                                            1. loved monte alban tonight. great empanadas, especially. the soupy part of the barbacoa of goat was a bit too oily for me and i felt like the meat could've tasted better, in all honesty. but everything else was excellent, including the juices.

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: epop

                                                Hi epop,

                                                Thanks for the report back. :) Glad to hear you enjoyed most of the meal.

                                                1. re: exilekiss

                                                  Definitely, Exilekiss. I hope to go back soon. I loved the empanadas. Next I've to find a barbacoa that astounds. J Gold recommended one on the east side which I haven't hit. When I get near downtown my car goes into auto-pilot and takes me to SGV, for all its seafood glories.

                                                  1. re: epop

                                                    Monte Alban is one of the Chow favourites that doesn't do anything for me. It's above average to below average with nothing ever standing out. After about 6 visits, I am done after this last one.
                                                    The tostada cecina and the chips and salsa were the highlights of the evening. We tried the verde and amarillo mole with pork and beef, respectively. I could barely eat the green mole as the overwhelming flavour was that of a chemical, almost bleach like, cleaning agent. Thankfully, it wasn't bleach but instead was the leaf of some plant that was dominating this mole. I have a hard time believing that someone tasting this alongside of me would think this was good. My GF also thought it was inedible.
                                                    Her amarillo was better but just dull.
                                                    I've had their black and coloradito moles, both of which i thought were too sweet and just not that enjoyable, albeit perfectly edible.
                                                    I've had a few of the other dishes raved about on this site and they all fall flat. I just don't get the fascination of this place. I want to get it and love it but it's never better than mediocre and this last time, much worse than mediocre.

                                                    1. re: Wolfgang

                                                      Have you tried the red and black moles with something besides just meat? I find the chicken, pork, and beef they serve with the mole tends to be a bit dry. I prefer the moles either by themselves (i.e., as a dip for chips or taquitos) or with some tortilla-based dish like the "tacos enchiladas."

                                                      Also, have you tried the sopa azteca or the enfrijoladas with cecina? Those are two "can't-miss" dishes, imo.

                                                      1. re: Wolfgang

                                                        Hi Wolfgang,

                                                        Thanks for the feedback. I (luckily) didn't get that "chemical" taste when I tried their Verde Mole. Sorry to hear about that.

                                                        For myself, I found some good dishes and some misses as well (hence my 7.9 score), but I found enough good dishes in a non-fussy setting that I'd be back to try some of the other recommendations by everyone in this thread.

                                                        (Did you try their Tomato-based Estofado Mole? That one was a nice savory, more mellow Mole. And their Chivo (Goat) is pretty solid.)

                                                        1. re: exilekiss

                                                          The chemical taste may have been cilantro. Some people are genetically equipped to taste the soapy taste; others (like me!) can't taste the soap and just taste a wonderful leafy smokiness.

                                                          1. re: Bjartmarr

                                                            That's what I was wondering. Enough people have made this detergent comparison that it might be some kind genetic thing like cilantro.

                                                            1. re: Bjartmarr

                                                              Hi Bjartmarr,

                                                              Thanks for the info; I had no idea. Then again, the more I think about it, for some people Durian is the most amazing fruit and flavor they've ever had. For me? I can't get past the bandini pungency.

                                                              Same for Garlic: Some people I know really find Garlic unpleasant, but I love Garlic. :)

                                                          2. re: Wolfgang

                                                            I think the chemical taste may have been a heavy hand with hoja santa, avocado leaves or possibly even epazote.

                                                    2. Exilekiss - have you tried:

                                                      1. Juquila on Santa Monica
                                                      2. El Sazon Oaxequena on Washington Place
                                                      3. Antiquera de Oaxaquena on Melrose and Wilton
                                                      4. The Oaxacan truck that parks at Rose and Lincoln at night?
                                                      6. Tia Mole in East L.A. for weird neuvo experimental mole?

                                                      Juquila is on-and-off, but when they're on, their mole is spectacular. There are a lot of misses. But the specials menu is reliable - country ribs rolled in Oaxacan dry spice rub and deep-fried? Yes, please.

                                                      Antiquera de Oaxaquena is currently my favorite - simple, homey, great snacks platter. Quesadilla - masa stuffed with farmer's cheese - is great. (which reminds me that I need to go to El Huarache on your recc.) Get the Chilacayote too - spaghetti squash water with niblets.

                                                      El Sazon is super-simple, but has a great tlayuda.

                                                      The Rose truck makes good lengua, and a great tlayuda.

                                                      Ten years ago, K-town's Guelaguetza was better then them all, but these days it tastes to me... complex, but soulless.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Thi N.

                                                        Hi Thi,

                                                        Thanks for the suggestions! I haven't been to any of those places but am making notes. :)

                                                        1. re: Thi N.

                                                          I'm a long time Juquila fan also.It was the first Oaxacan place I went to in LA.It's a great hole in the wall, a place I used to go after wine tastings at the Wine House.EL Sazon is a a favorite as well, and La Tia, get over there now:) Two words, mancha manteles.