Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles "La Tia"

Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia

Such is the tale that circumstances can sometimes enable you to stumble upon a hidden treasure while you're just trying to get through your day. Of course, to me, hidden treasure automatically translates to a mind-blowing foodie find. That was the case with fellow blogger, Teenage Gluster, who, by luck, discovered Casa de Moles "La Tia" and did a write-up on his blog. Click here to read that entry. After I read his post, where he was waxing poetically about the unique moles offered by Chef Owner Rocio Camacho at her restaurant like Pistachio, Coffee, Tamarind, Passionfruit, etc., my palate went into over drive. I've certainly had my share of moles in the past, with the most unusual one being a Blackberry Mole at La Casita Mexicana, but never like the ones I read about on TG's blog entry. I knew I had to go. I knew I had to go as soon as possible. Tonight wasn't as soon as I would have liked, but it was good enough.

Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia

Upon my arrival at Case de Moles, the restaurant was pretty much empty, but with it only being open since May, there probably hasn't been enough word of mouth yet. Teenage Gluster was the first to strike that match. Opening the menu, the mole sauce section listed 15 different types of mole sauces. They were all in Spanish, but some I was able to easily translate. Below the mole shopping list were different types of proteins, everything from veal to duck to quail to chicken breast and so much more. While you could mix and match, they also had dishes that they considered to be their specialties like shrimp with coffee mole or their halibut with white mole. Along with the mole dishes, their menu also offered other options like the Cochinita Pibil or Carne Asada.

Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia

While I was waiting for the rest of my party, I ordered the Cucumber Agua Fresca, which is my favorite agua fresca drink and found it refreshing. Since I got to the restaurant early, I had asked the waiter, if there was any way that our group could get a sampling of 4 of the more unusual moles before we placed our order. He graciously said yes, so I chose Pistachio, Passionfruit, Coffee and Tequila. As the rest of my party arrived, Cecilia, my co-host for this outing, talked with him further and soon, we were able to include the Poblano and the White Mole as well to our tasting list.

Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia

Our waiter soon brought out those first six moles along with housemade corn tortillas and we started digging in. As we started sampling them, we were just in awe. Those 6 moles had very distinct flavors. I think our waiter must have gone back to the kitchen to tell Chef Rocio that she had a bunch of intense foodies in her restaurant, because soon after, 9 more dishes of mole sauces came our way. In all, we got to sample 14 of the 15 on her menu.

Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia

My tastebuds went into overload. The flavor profiles were all over the place. Sweet. Smoky. Spicy. Nutty. All of them had such complexity of flavors. Other than finding the tamarind mole a little too smoky, I was in mole heaven. While they were all fantastic, I definitely was leaning more towards the Pistachio Mole (deeply nutty), the Tequila Mole (loved the addition of the lime juice), the Hibiscus (the addition of the red wine was just so unique) and the Coffee Mole (dark and rich). Even with the choices I made, I have a feeling that they could switch up depending on what I'm in the mood for. For example, if I'm looking for something sweeter, how can you go wrong with the White Mole or the Passionfruit Mole?

We could have just sat there all night, dipping the corn tortillas and chips in all those glorious mole sauces, but given their generosity, we ordered additional food. Some opted for salad and soup as starters before their main entrees. I had a taste of the cream of veggie soup and it was light, creamy and delicious. I had the La Conquista, which is made up of fresh baby spinach, queso panela, peanuts, Sesame seeds with a pepita de calabaza dressing. I was a little surprised by the sesame seeds, but was told that it's used in a lot of Oaxacan cooking. The salad itself was pretty good. I liked how they didn't overdress the salad.

Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia

When it came to the entrees, four of us ordered mole dishes. I opted for the Shrimp with Coffee Mole. At first, I thought that the coffee mole may be intense for the delicate shrimp, but actually, the sweetness of the shrimp helped balance out the richness of the coffee mole. One little thing that was off for me was that the shrimp was either overcooked or undercooked. It was a little chewier than it should have been. Still, it was the perfect partner for the coffee mole.

Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia

I also had a taste of the Venison with the Hibiscus Mole. This was a great match because the wine in the Hibiscus Mole really complemented the venison and would probably pair well with other red meats also. I also enjoyed a taste of the Salmon and Pistachio Mole. We all know tasty pistachio-encrusted salmon is, so it stands to reason this would be a wonderful duo as well. Taking a bite of the Cochinita Pibil, I realized that this was no cochinita pibil I've ever seen before. It was highly spiced, not necessarily spicy, but just strongly flavored. It almost reminded me of chorizo. It just may be a dish to order when you need a bit of a mole break.

Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia

All in all, the food was nicely presented and was really delicious. I heard nothing but praise around the table. With us winding down after such an extensive mole tasting and our good-sized entrees, dessert wasn't even in the ballpark. Of course, that was until I heard what they were and that changed everything. Ending our meal were the following:
  • Rice Pudding with raisins soaked in tequila and sitting on green tomatillo marmalade
  • Plantains with Tequila Sauce
  • Flan de Tunanbsp;
  • Cactus fruit flan
  • Cocoa Flan
  • Ancho Chile Flannbsp;
Of the five, the rice pudding was one of my favorites, which was surprising. Green tomatillo going anywhere near rice pudding seems a bit strange to me, but I actually liked the lemon-herbness of the green tomatillo when eaten with a bite of the rice pudding. It added a different dimension to a dessert that can sometimes seem too milky-sweet. The ancho chile flan was also a hit. Considering that ancho chiles have a slight chocolate/coffee bitterness to it, it went well with the flan, which is basically a caramel custard dessert. The addition of the tuna (cactus fruit) syrup added to the Flan de Tuna a fruitiness that I wouldn't normally associate with flan in general. Again, something unique.

Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia Mole Heaven at Casa de Moles La Tia

Overall, our meal at Casa de Mole "La Tita" was simply unforgettable. It affected me so much that normally when I blog about a restaurant, it could be days, weeks or even months after I've visited it before I write about it, but my dining experience at Casa de Mole was just so exquisite, that I wanted to share it with even more people. So if you get a chance, run, don't walk to this ground breaking restaurant. You definitely won't regret it.

Casa de Moles "La Tita"
4619 E. Cesar Chavez Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90022
(323) 263-7842
Moles La Tia on Urbanspoon ^


Exile Kiss said...

Another great review Abby. :) I can't wait to try this place out; it sounds like a great find.

pleasurepalate said...

Thanks EK! I look forward to reading your review after you've checked it out yourself. :)