I’ll never forget the holiday party a decade back where I had my first bites of the glorious dark river of deep deliciousness that is mole. My introduction came in the form of an El Salvadoran variety, which I learned was mole poblano (outside of Mexico, the most traditional version). My gracious hostess, an articulate architect, explained to me that she had cooked it like it was done in her home country, the sauce simmered all day in a massive pot with whole parts of chicken thrown in bones and all. My juicy breast was so tender in its day long stock of densely, rich goo that I was forever spoiled towards that ilk of the dish where even though the color resembles a chocolate bar, the flavors are more nuanced and smoky with only a hint of the sweetness underneath.
I’ve never found a comparable form of mole since and probably never will. I have made my own homemade mole through a recipe given to me by my good friend Tina that incorporates the store bought jar of sauce with fresher home refrigerator ingredients that is great on a whim but I’ve stayed away from the daunting task of creating it from scratch.
So when the Cute Gardener found Rocio’s Mole de los Dioses (yes, they are that confident that they are providing sauce of the gods), I was delighted, not only in finding a restaurant that was truly original and unique but that also served forms of mole for every taste bud. Like typical Southern California Mexican restaurants, the location was in a gritty, neighborhood strip mall. Unlike traditional Mexican restaurants, the menu offered things I have never seen before like bright green freshly made nopalito cactus tortillas. They even serve a small pot of boiling hot shrimp and chili broth with a baked cracker to wake up the palate before the mole parade ensues.
They have thirteen types of mole on the menu ranging from the traditional basic chocolate to varieties containing everything from pumpkin seeds and pistachios to coffee, white cocoa, mexcal cactus and wine. We ordered the mole sampler so we could taste three kinds at once. The signature Mole de los Dioses made with cuitlacoche was my favorite. For those not in the know, cuitlacoche is corn smut. That’s right, it’s the funky black moldy stuff that grows on kernels that is a Mexican delicacy much like sucking russet colored marrow out of chicken bones or eating crab brains out of the head shell is for other cultures. This was my favorite version. The other two were a super sweet and chipotle-esque smoky Oaxacan and a green Mole Verde with pepitas. All very interesting and yummy and served with those fat nopalito tortillas in raw form for dipping.
I also ordered a plate of mole poblano on chicken and the chicken was dry like in every other restaurant entrée version of mole I’ve had since trying my supreme first timer.
A plate of empanadas was also highly eccentric in that the fried pockets were fluffy rather than dense. The fillings of more corn smut, squash blossoms, and cheese were light and salad-like, different than the empanadas I am used to typically overly saturated with beans.
If I weren’t so full, I would have tried the Diosa del Campo (cream of grasshoppers and mexcal soup) or the fried plantains with tequila sweet cream topped with broiled sesame seeds for dessert. Maybe a chance to go back with another adventurous palate exists in my future.