10 Best Moles in Los Angeles
|Mole poblano at La Casita Mexicana|
You can't miss the moles at La Casita Mexicana in Bell. Red and green pipian as well as poblano are the first items to hit your table, topping a basket of warm tortilla chips. You may even forget to open the menu. But you should -- try one of the "three moles" options (with the three sauces spooned over flautas, enchiladas, chicken or pork) to continue delving into and comparing flavors. Or, in the morning, taste the mole on the terrific chilaquiles. Jalisco-born chefs Jaime Martín del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu adapted the acclaimed poblano recipe from their grandmothers'. Its 40-plus ingredients include chocolate, cacao, plantains, bread, fruits, seeds, nuts and guajillo, ancho and mulato chiles. It's a mole so delicious that customers want to take it home. Luckily, a bottled version is available next door at Casita's La Tiendita shop. 4030 E. Gage Ave., Bell; (323) 773-1898.
3. Juan's Restaurante:
Anne Fishbein mole poblano at Juan's Restaurante
Is it any surprise that Rocio Camacho of Rocio's Mole de los Dioses once worked at Juan's in the San Gabriel Valley? Her portrait even hangs in Juan's dining room, like a patron saint. The restaurant's 13 moles go beyond the common pipian, poblano and negro. (That negro, by the way, is "rich and intense with hints of nuts and fruit and with an edge of bitter chocolate ... like the oil slick of the gods," wrote our critic Besha Rodell in a recent review.) You'll also find the huitlacoche-infused mole de los dioses, warm and fruity manchamanteles, and all-white velo de novia, as well as moles flavored with coffee, tamarind and tropical fruit. Chef Juan Mondragon says his menu was inspired by his grandmother's recipes from Guerrero, Mexico, with pre-Hispanic influences. Most unusual is the cactus mole -- chef Juan Mondragon is a booster of cactus as a health food. Note the green tortillas. 4291 Maine Ave. Baldwin Park; (626) 337-8686.
2. Moles la Tía:
Anne Fishbein almond mole at Moles la Tia
Moles la Tía, where chef Rocio Camacho first brought her inventive sauces, wins the variety contest with 16 types of moles. So we were disappointed to hear that poblano is most popular! It would be a mistake to order poblano when you could try mango, hibiscus flower, pistachio or velo de novia, also called blanco for its all-white ingredients -- chocolate to chiles to coconut. Your best bet is to order "Cuatro y Cuatro" -- fish, shrimp, chicken and poultry with four moles of your choice served on the side. Unless the duck breast with tamarind mole or frog legs with herb mole seems too unusual to pass up. 4619 E. Cesar Chavez Blvd., East L.A.; (323) 263-7842.
And for our top pick...
11927 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA