* Photos by Deb Hayes
I was introduced to Mezcal Restaurant in downtown San Jose, CA, after seeing the Mapplethorpe photo-exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art last week (& Mezcal is right across the street from the SJMA). To be honest, when I first walked by Mezcal I thought it was a cheesy, downtown SJ bar from the outside (and that is probably my own bias) but I was so pleasantly surprised when we stepped inside. Friends who had dined there numerous times and who really know their moles and real Mexican food (sorry, no burritos here) highly recommended Mezcal Restaurant. The cuisine is authentic Oaxacan regional cuisine with an accent on their homemade moles and imported Oaxacan Mezcals (Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage, a sibling of Tequila, made from the maguey plant – boasting a delicious strong smoky flavor). The moles are created by the mother, Doña Libo, (owned by two sons and their mother) with ingredients imported from Oaxaca. The indoor dining room boasts a collection of hand painted Mezcal boxes that are very contemporary Mexico and beautifully displayed together on the bar. The atmosphere is fun with tables, chairs, and art also imported from Oaxaca. The service we received was wonderful and welcoming with lots of information about each dish served. We even got to go back in the kitchen so Deb could photograph Dona creating homemade tortillas (pictured above).
When you arrive you are served chips that allow you to taste the three different kinds of mole sauce:
- Estofado, a sweet mole made of mild tomatillos and peanuts
- Coloradito, a red mole made of tomatoes and chiles de arbol
- Mole Negro that is deeply complex with a mixture of chiles, chocolate and spices
The mole dishes are the stars of the menu, as is the unique Chapulines (fried grasshoppers sautéed with garlic, lime and salt served as an appetizer). I recommend the Estofados, Enchiladas, or Enmoladas, depending on which mole you liked (corn tortillas with mole, cheese, onions, your choice of meat, I got the pork). You can buy mole to go but it is expensive because there are so many ingredients (imported from Oaxaca) and it is such a time consuming dish to create. Also, don’t miss the homemade Pecan ice cream and the Horchata with fruit and nuts that you can order at lunch time.
- Check out their Happy Hour: M-Th 3-7pm & Fridays 3-6pm
I am going to be bold here. This is one of the best restaurants I have tried in the area in 2011. When I go back I will order: A Mezcal cocktail, Chapulines for an appetizer, Estofados as my meal, and definitely the Pecan Ice Cream for dessert. Try it out and let me know what you think!
25 West San Fernando Street
San Jose, CA 95113-2477
(408) 283-9595 ?