The Upper East Side has a little more flavor and fun, thanks to Mole, the mini-chain of Mexican restaurants that started in the West Village and has now expanded as far as Williamsburg. The restaurant is bustling, colorful, and loud – perfect for an after work drink off the reasonably priced happy hour menu.
This soup elevates corn in every way. Thick but not heavy, the soup is filled with sweet corn that bursts with sugar . It is buttery and fragrant with cilantro, which keeps it from tasting too much like New England corn chowder. The crisply fried tortilla shells add crunch and salt. Even on a blisteringly hot day, I couldn’t help but drain my small cup and wish I had more.
Thick, handmade flour tortillas that are slightly coarse and have a pleasant chew are the base of this dish. They are filled with mild cotija cheese and smoky, cumin laced mushrooms. Served with a spicy, citrusy salsa and cilantro-laden guacamole, this is hearty enough to have as a light meal.
These brisket tacos are so good, you think they have come off a truck in LA. That is the highest praise I can give! The double wrapped taco comes on blue corn tortillas that are soft yet not gluey – a common taco pitfall. They stand up well to the juicy brisket, braised into melting submission. It has a deep, dark flavor that is lifted by fresh onions and a squeeze of lime juice.
The mole here is imported from Mexico City by the owner’s mother in law, and it is unreal. I tasted so many flavors in there: sesame, raisins, sweet poblano chiles, rich chicken stock, and the bitter taste of chocolate that lingers on the tongue like the taste of coffee after you have finished your cup. Served over tender crepes fille with juicy pulled chicken, it is a complex and unexpected taste of Mexican cuisine. It certainly puts my mole to shame.
Though dessert in a Mexican restaurant is typically an afterthought, sweets here should really be put on the front burner. Though the tres leches is a bit dry for my tastes, the flan is fantastic – eggy and rich, with notes of toffee, pecans, and fresh cream. The chocolate cake is as classic as what you wish your grandma had made you after school – dense, fudgy, and intensely chocolate. It wants only for a glass of ice cold milk.
Mole breathes new life into the UES. This is a wonderful restaurant for young people, or even families, and has an excellent staff, a fair price point, and truly delicious food.
*Disclaimer: This was a press dinner. I was not required to write a review, and my opinions are my own and unbiased.*