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Dec 5, 2008 01:17 PM

Mezcal Restaurant in San Jose opens. Lunch report.

I've been watching the progress of the fitting up of the new Oaxacan restaurant, Mezcal, on San Fernando between First and Market in San Jose. It looked pretty inside, and I read somewhere that the owner was bringing in his mom from Oaxaca to do the cooking. It opened a week or so ago, and yesterday I went there for lunch.

The interior is pleasantly done in rich warm colors, with Spanish-style furniture and pretty blue and white china on the tables. The service was equally warm and pleasant.

The menu gives you a quick rundown of a few Spanish culinary words so you'll know what you're ordering, like tasajo (thinly sliced salted beef) or cecina (ditto pork). There are eight antojitos, all of which sounded intriguing, especially the memelitas (hand made corn tortillas, spread with pork cracklings, black bean puree and cheese). However, I only had room for one platillo. I ordered enchiladas with cecina.

Brought to your table are chips and, rather than salsa, three homemade moles so you may sample the cook's saucemaking talent. There's a mild tomatillo and peanut mole, and deep brick-red mole coloradito, and a mole negro. All were wonderful, though they could have used a bit more salt. The mole negro was particularly fabulous, deeply complex with chiles, chocolate and spices.

The enchiladas were just like I saw on Rick Bayless's show: tortillas fried slightly, napped in mole coloradito, and served folded over and sprinkled with that crumbly salty cheese and sliced raw onions. They are unstuffed. The cecina was a thin pork steak served on the same place. This platillo was accompanied by a three-compartmented side plate, which contained plain white rice, homemade pickled jalapenos and carrots, and a black bean soup sprinkled with more cheese.

When corn tortillas and mole are this good, this is just how I like my enchiladas. The tortillas have a tender but chewy bite, and that rich complex slightly spicy mole made it a perfect combination. I could eat a dozen of them. The accompaniments were good but not particularly remarkable, except for the homemade pickles. These made their canned equivalents seem just nasty by comparison.

A diner at the next table had the tamales de mole, which were chicken tamales with mole negro. These were those banana-leaf-wrapped flat packet style tamales, and the diner looked dreamily pleased as he was eating. I think I'll get that next time! Someone at my office also dined there, and he said his chile relleno stuffed with picadillo (shredded pork and chicken) was wonderful.

My arroz con leche for dessert, however, was entirely forgettable, as the rice was hard and waxy and there was no flavor other than milk and sugar.

I'm going back very soon, perhaps for dinner, and I hope they have an expanded menu for the evening. This is a delightful addition to downtown San Jose.

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  1. Nice report! Did you find out where they are from in Oaxaca? You might find even more regionalized specialties? And what about the restaurant's namesake? Are artisanal mezcales available? Or even Aguas frescas like chilacoyote, tejate, or horchata con tuna?

    1. Thanks for the great report! How exciting...a Oaxacan restaurant in downtown SJ! Now I have three Mexican-inspired places to check out around that area (the other 2 include that tortas place that rworange posted about and the Oaxacan market). I love themed food-centric outings...

      Mezcal Restaurant
      25 W San Fernando, San Jose, CA 95113

      1. Really? I've been looking for a oaxacan restaurant in the area, and the only other one, El Tule disappointed me. Does it have any other regional specialties like k r was asking? It would be good to have good oaxacan food without having to drive to SoCal

        1. We went to try this new Oaxacan restaurant - Mezcal. I thought it was ok.

          We went on Sun 12/7/08 and had a late lunch around 1pm. There were only a few customers in there so we could sit almost anywhere. The waitress wanted to put us in the center of the restaurant. Who wants to be there when there's an open window table? So I asked for the window table & got it.

          FREE chips w/ 3 mole sauces given. I didn't try the chips though they looked good. Later got some tortillas so got to try the sauces. They are all runny and two I liked, the dark brown one I didn't.

          FREE water served in glass bottle - self serve.

          Stuff we tried:

          Consome de pollo $6 - small bowl of chicken soup w/ chicken, carrots, & potatoes. Chopped onions, cilantro, jalapeno, sliced lime on the side. Nice soup, best w/ lots of jalapeno. I asked for some tortillas & got to try their homemade corn tortillas - really tasty.

          tamales de mole $10 - 2 chicken tamales w/ black Oaxacan mole wrapped in banana leaves. Tasted fine. 3 slices of baguette next to it.

          Mole Negro $15 - chicken covered w/ black Oaxacan mole made from chiles, spices, seeds, & chocolate served w/ rice & home made corn tortillas. Friend liked it. I didn't care for the sauce.

          Friend got to sample 2 tiny Chapulines (grasshoppers). On the menu they are $6. Fried grasshoppers, served w/ a side of guacamole & tortilla chips. Since he didn't get the entree & only the grasshoppers he found them very salty. Owner explained you need to eat them w/ guacamole or tortillas. He eats them like a taco.

          With tax & tip our total was $20 per person. Higher than I'd like to pay for lunch.

          If you must try it go for Happy Hr 3-6 M-F:
          $4 all beers
          $5 all appetizers
          $2 off all 6 oz wine by the glass & off premium cocktails.

          Antojitos -
          guacamole table side $8
          Memelitas $7
          Molotes $8
          calamar 9
          quesadillas fritas 7
          taquitos fritos de picadillo 8
          botana oaxaquena 14
          chapulines 6

          Sopas y ensaladas:
          consume de pollo 6
          ensalada cesar 6; with meat $8
          ensalada tricolor 6

          chiles rellenos
          tamales de mole

          Moles: $15
          mole negro

          Bathrooms in the back. Nice & clean when I used it.

          My pics:

          1 Reply
          1. I finally made it to Mezcal for dinner, and it was very nice. I had the estofadas with cecina - much like the enchiladas that Teela describes, but with their estofado tomatillo / peanut mole. That's the mole I liked best of the three in the sampler. The cecina has a chile / achiote rub similar to how Estrellita's prepares their Chicken Oaxaca. I also had the molotes appetizer. These are masa cakes filled with potato and chorizo and made a very tasty beginning. There's a nice beer and wine by the glass selection, and my Argentine Malbec was a happy accompaniment to the food.

            It's great to have a fine new restaurant in downtown San Jose, convenient to performance venues and the convention center, that I can recommend to visitors!