Friday, August 01, 2008

Mundane Mexican No More: Moles La Tia in East L.A

There is something wrong with me...well, at least that is what my parents think because of my obsession/passion with food. So much so that my mom actually asked me to attend this Misa de Sanacion ("Healing Mass") at the local parish, in hopes of receiving some sort of normalizing revelation or something. Me being the mamma's boy that I am, I couldn't say no to her, and I'd figured that the odds of going somewhere to eat after were really high after such a "connecting" event like that.

After the unceasing sing-a-longs and people "miraculously" passing out, I wandered outside as soon as it was over, it was their where I found my revelation. In the form of a new restaurant around the corner that was already closed, from a kind lady from Oaxaca named Rocio Camacho.

A native from the Mixteca region of Oaxaca, I asked her about the restaurant, and as she kept on going and going, I noticed something about her: the synonymous passion towards her craft akin to mine, something I do not sense too often.

Ms. Camacho has certainly left her mark in the L.A restaurant scene already--responsible for the J. Gold standard Moles of La Casita Mexicana in Bell as well as the famous La Huasteca in Lynwood. With five generation of Mole Making in her family, she has the intricate art running through her veins.

She assured me, this was not going to be like the rest of the sad "combination platters" and "fajitas" "Mexican" restaurants. She, like I, believed that it was time for a desperate change. And boy, is change good.

After three years of painstakingly planning, preparing, saving...the fruits of her labor have finally come to full spicy, sweet, bitter and salty fruition, literally, as is apparent in her 25 different varieties of Mole.

Passionfruit, Coffee, Pistachio, Tamarindo, Tequila... this is not the list of her aguas frescas, these are only some of her self-concocted Mole recipes on hand daily at the newly revamped Moles La Tia, part of Jesus Huerta's "El Gallo" family, a man also with a vision, to change what food has become in East L.A.

Each one distinctly different in its own elegance, the Pistachio, meaty and spiced, showcasing the Middle Eastern mark on Mexican Cuisine. The Coffee, not what you'd think with only the subtlest hint of fine coffee in the end. The Tequila, smacking you with wave after wave of the 20 different chillies used to make it. Impossible to choose a "favorite", but that Passionfruit one is truly something else, the attractive yellow tint flecked with the petite passion seeds. With the plenitude of proteins--Venison, Duck, Veal, Beef and Pork Tenderloin, Scallops, Halibut---the possibilities are awestruckingly endless, reason enough to at least have me coming here every day of the rest of the year without ever repeating myself.

Of course, no matter how creative Rocio gets, she makes sure to never, ever forget her roots, showing me this unique breed of dried chili that she imports from her hometown--since it only grows in Oaxaca' sub-tropical weather. As she assuages me, I am astounded by it, with a scent so deep with smoke and heat, its phantom scent still haunts my sinuses to this moment. This Chihuasqle chili, is the key ingredient in her house mole, "Mancha Manteles", roughly translating to "tablecloth stainer". It is called that for a reason, probably one of the most intense Moles she has to offer. That, along with the almond pasted Almendrado of the north, the sesame seeded fiery, pitch black Mole negro of the South, the peanut and pumpkin seed intensive Red and Green Pipian's from my parents Zacatecan hometown of Yerba Buena, Zacatecas...she is making sure that Mexico's vast culinary traditions remain vividly alive.

After coming here a couple of times and making complete meals with just the Mole samples by themselves and a generous amount of her soft, tender handmade Tortillas that she boils and grinds herself. I've barely made a dent in the menu--an agua fresca made with pumpkin seeds and prickly pear syrup instead of the usual rice and sugar, raw shrimped Aquachiles, native Nopal Salads, and a whole page of unique breakfasts, such as the weekend-only Banana Leaf wrapped Lamb Barbacoa that I am dying to try.

As I leave, treasuring the last morsel of her Flan de Tuna with sweet Tomatillo Jam, contemplating the multiple day preparations and day-long cooking times that these brews require to come to such ethereal materialization, I am almost in tears..."it is about damn time."

Moles "La Tia"
4619 E. Cesar Chavez Ave.
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 263-7tia(842)


Anonymous said...

Teenage, this is an awesome find, I am going to try to go tomorrow. This lady owes you some tortillas and mole of your choice. Great write up!

Burger Boy

pleasurepalate said...

Wow, this restaurant sounds fantastic! Do you think you can help me set up a mole tasting menu for Pleasure Palate? Pretty please?

Foodeater said...

I don't think that your parents will be able to exorcize this particular demon out of you... at least I hope not.

For your radness, you have been awared the "Brilliante Weblog" award!

Feel free to post it on your site if you so desire, as well to nominate 7 of your own favorite sites. Soon we must consume.

Alexandra Marshall said...

so enjoyed our outing to this place, and you've done a brilliant job writing it up too. looking forward to trying the duck but am hoping i can venture beyond the passionfruit to pair it with.

hasta pronto,

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Javier,

Amazing find and great review! :) I'll have to pay a visit very soon. Gracias!

Eileen said...

Have to try this place now! You are a great writer!

mattatouille k. said...

great great entry. must try this place asap. thanks for the write-up. btw, that first bit about your mom wanting you to go to the healing mass is pretty funny. I know what you're talking about. Anyways, are you up to grab a meal sometime in East LA? We almost had you had FoodMarathon's last marathon, but wondering if you'd be down to grab a meal with me and FoodGPS (

Janine and Guy said...

hey javier! guy and went there on labor day, thanks for the tip! it was amazing! had the cuatros y cuatros with the almond, pistachio, tamarind, and passion fruit mole with the salmon, halibut, shrimp, and duck. washed it down with their special horchata. it so delicious i almost wept.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. It was quite entertaining and informative. The people from La Tia we serving samples at art gallery reception recently and they were amazing! Your review clinched it. I'm going there tomorrow.