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Nov 29, 2009 01:36 PM

Juquilita Restaurant Oaxaqueno in San Jose

I've long been disappointed in the Mexican restaurant selection in San Jose. Lots of decent taquerias, but few good sit down restaurants and fewer still with any unique specialties. We'd travel to SF or pick up food from Primavera at the SF farmers market or, at least in the last few years, visit the mid-peninsula Oaxacan Kitchen at a market or their restaurant when we wanted a better Mexican meal (though I consider them just OK).

But today we found a gem of a restaurant, very close to us: Juquilita Restaurant Oaxaqueno at 577 Alma, San Jose. We tried a bunch of small dishes: molotes, a memelita, tostada de tinga, tamal de mole (de platano), empanada de amarillo and one of the hot beverages: champurrado.

Every dish was fantastic.

The molotes (stuffed with potatoes and chorizo) were garnished with mole negro and queso fresco. Fried perfectly, with the chorizo just an accent.

The memelita was on a handmade corn patty topped with black bean paste, cheese and salsa. Similar to (but smaller than, as the name implies) the memela at Oaxacan Kitchen.

The tostada de tinga was on a very crisp and perfectly fried tostada with slightly spicy chicken, cabbage and queso -- a really nice dish. When they have it, Primavera Cafe at the SF farmers market does this one a bit better (they add fresh avacodo and pickled carrots and jalepeno), but Juquilita does a very decent rendition.

The tamal de mole (we got the one in banana leaf: en hoja de platano) was wonderfully moist, the masa had a great texture with a more coarser grind that gave a nuttiness to the dish, and the balance between the mole negro and masa was perfect -- the masa layer was thin, not overpowering the tamal.

The Empanada de amarillo was fantastic. The hand made tortilla was fried (much like a crispy taco, but better) and the filling was a mix of amarrillo mole (which was thick and very flavorful), chicken and fresh cilantro.

The champurrado was a variation on hot chocolate, less sweet, and thickened.

The selection of specialty mexican drinks (various atole, the champurrado, tejate) is large, both cold and hot.

And because we ordered little dishes, two of us filled up for under $22. We'll be back to try the dinner plates and more of the specialty drinks (esp the tejate).

A photo album is here:

Juquilita Restaurant
577 W Alma Ave, San Jose, CA 95125

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  1. Good post. Thanks. I'm with you all the way on Primavera and Oaxacan Kitchen, so I look forward to giving this place a try.

    1. I was gifted a tamal de mole, wrapped in a banana leaf. A few days later I steamed it to reheat. Quite nice, the mole was coarser and fluffier than other tamales of this style I've tried. The mole itself was unremarkable but pleasant enough with some shreds of tender chicken. I'd like to sample more from here, especially the drinks. Mmm, champurrado.

      Juquilita Restaurant
      577 W Alma Ave, San Jose, CA 95125

      1. My family gave Juquilita a try a few days ago. It's worth checking out if you're interested in the menu. My wife and I both liked the mole negro quite a bit. The tamal de chepil (a green, leafy veggie that I later read was banned in Australia, for some reason or another) was pretty nice. Other things we had were fine, but less exciting. We meant to have the champurrado, but we must have forgotten as we were pressed for time as we finished.

        Just so you know, they're pretty liberal with the use of lard in the dishes, to the point where it's a listed ingredient (asiento) in the descriptions, so if you don't like that, this might not be an ideal spot for you. It'll probably keep me away in the future, but if you're fine with it, don't let it bother you. Also, as a fyi, the ambience is extremely funky, probably not something that will dissuade most Chowhounds.

        1 Reply
        1. re: maigre

          Thanks for the report. Asiento is not just lard but the crispy browned bits in the bottom of the pan after rendering. It is a key ingredient in Oaxacan cooking or as a seasoning spread. I will note that the masa for my tamale had less of the smoothness I associate with lard than others i've tried.

        2. I still love this restaurant and have probably eaten here 7 or 8 times now.

          We've had nearly every dish on the menu. My favorites are the tostadas (both the tinga or the wonderfully tangy and very garlicy chile ajo), the mole coloradito (so rich), the empanada de amarillo, and the banana leaf tamals. Oh, and the guacamole: they fry the chips to order and will customize your guac if you ask.

          I prefer their tlayudas to those at Oaxacan Kitchen, but it isn't a favorite dish of mine. Other diners have said it is their favorite dish.

          We've taken a vegetarian friend there and since they cook to order they can leave off the asiento and have suggested replacement dishes (empanada de amarillo with cheese, say).

          We ordered the chile relleno and they whipped up the batter to order, stuffed a red chile, and fried it just before serving, but it was somewhat disappointing. It really needed a sauce.

          They make their ice cream (ice milk?) in house. The walnut ice cream had a great flavor, but was crystalline in texture. I adored it, but some might miss a more creamy texture. They had a caramelized milk flavor but it tasted burnt (not sure if it's just my taste buds or if it was a bad batch).

          Orange and carrot juices are juiced to order, as is the banana shake. It may be sappy, but I feel loved when dining here.

          I've continued to add photos of the dishes to my album (listed in the first post), it now includes the tamal de chepil, quesadilla de flor de calabaza (though it's uninteresting from the outside), and others.