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Buckethead

Molcajete Mixto

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This place has been around for about a month, I finally got over there over the weekend. On a Friday night around 8, we were the only people in the place. That's not a good sign, so I wasn't expecting much. I am happy to report that my misgivings were for nothing: everything was really good.

The space is kind of strange. It's on a corner away from the main drag of the Italian Market, catecorner from John's water ice. That means that at prime dinner time, it's the only open business on that corner. The sign outside is really low-budget and doesn't match the inside, which is all refurbished and very pleasant. The menu and service are definitely intended to be closer to fine dining than any other Mexican place in the area, and less traditional: the chicken used in my enchiladas was listed as 'free-range', not something I'm used to seeing at a tacqueria. Whether the demand is there to support that kind of operation with Garibaldi, Veracruzana, etc. so close by remains to be seen. Little flourishes on the service side were much appreciated: napkins were folded while we were in the restroom. Of course, we were the only customers at the time.

They started us off with the usual basket of chips and two salsas. The tomatillo based salsa was outstanding. I had a poblano soup, it was a little heavy on the cream but evoked everything I like about poblanos. Queso fundido was good too, with more chorizo than I'm used to getting when I order it at other places. My enchiladas mole were very good, a little light on the spicy heat, but I prefer it that way usually. The refried beans were great, something I can't say about most Mexican places.

The main reason I'd recommend going is dessert. I am a dessert fanatic. When trying a new place, the first question I ask the server is usually 'do you make your own desserts'? I have been known to order two desserts using one of my fellow diners as a proxy. So when I tell you that the blueberry crepe I had at Molcajete Mixto is the best dessert I can remember having in months, I mean what I say. It was filled with cream cheese that had been spiced up in such a way that it was both savory and sweet, topped with really good blueberries in some kind of light syrup. If I hadn't been talked out of it, I would have ordered another one to go. On top of that, the coffee was fantastic. The sticker on the door said it was La Colombe, but they brewed it more to my liking than most places that serve La Colombe. It also arrived at the perfect time, just long enough before dessert arrived that I had time to sweeten it and take a sip. I can't stand it when coffee and dessert are served as if they have no relation to each other, instead of simultaneously.

The rest of our meal was better than most Mexican places I've been to (La Lupe, El Zarape), but I'd say Plaza Garibaldi may be slightly better if you like more traditional Mexican fare. The dessert, though, was so much better than any restaurant in the area that I'd go back just for that. I'm trying to think of a better dessert I've had recently, and I can't come up with one.

Anyway, give it a try. The prices are a little higher than the more traditional Mexican places in the area, but not by a whole lot. Apps range from $7 - $10, entrees from $13 - $23. BYO.

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That's the space that was formerly occupied by Hoa Sen (vegetarian Vietnamese). It's been closed and empty for five years or so; I was happy to see that it's been reoccupied. And happier to learn that Molcajete Mixto is good. I'll have to give it a try.

I seem to remember reading that it's intended as a "European" Mexican place; the dishes you've described (with the possible exception of the crepe) sound pretty much straight Mexican to me. Any European influence that you remember?

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We picked up a menu over the weekend and it was pretty much focused on Mexican, with the exception of the "Pasta" section that consisted of three fairly Italian pasta dishes (I don't remember them all, the last was fettucini alfredo).

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There are several pastas on the menu, including Fettuccine Alfredo...

I had intended to try this place a few weeks ago, but there were surprisingly few vegetarian options on the menu outside of that pasta, and our veggie friend was a little weirded out by the cognitive dissonance inherent in eating that in a Mexican restaurant.

Not sure I saw much more that I remember as being more "European" than Mexican, but it did look good, if a bit pricier than others in the neighborhood. Thanks for the report, Buckethead, I'm even more eager to try it now.

ETA: whoops, urbanfabric beat me to it...


Edited by philadining (log)

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Isn't there some Calvin Trillin line about how if you see spaghetti on the menu at a restaurant where you wouldn't expect it (like a Mexican restaurant), you should always order it, because it's guaranteed to be really really good?

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That's the space that was formerly occupied by Hoa Sen (vegetarian Vietnamese).  It's been closed and empty for five years or so; I was happy to see that it's been reoccupied.  And happier to learn that Molcajete Mixto is good.  I'll have to give it a try.

I seem to remember reading that it's intended as a "European" Mexican place; the dishes you've described (with the possible exception of the crepe) sound pretty much straight Mexican to me.  Any European influence that you remember?

The service!

Their menu did have a pasta section, which was weird. You're right though, apart from dessert, the stuff we had was pretty straightforward Mexican. There were several things on the menu that weren't (paella, 'french' onion soup, mussels, the pastas) but we went there intent on Mexican, so that's what we ordered. We had two specials, the poblano soup I mentioned and a pair of stuffed poblanos entree, The other two desserts were a flan and a chocolate mousse, but the mousse didn't have any chiles in it, which is a wasted opportunity in a Mexican restaurant.

Their menu is on their website, which I forgot to mention:

http://www.molcajetemixto.com/

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Last year I had one of the best seafood pasta dishes I've ever had in Margate of all places. Turned out the chef was Mexican. I dragged some friends back there a few days later and the pasta sucked. I asked - it was the Mexican chef's day off.

Nowadays, Mexican kitchen workers are cooking and therefore learning all manner of cuisines. It is very possible the chef at Molcajete Mixto worked at a very good Italian restaurant previously and was bringing that skill to the menu.

Or it could be they are covering all bases and playing it safe. Since every other new restaurant seems to be Italian, it's a good bet that someone in the party may want to eat pasta.

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From their website:

Jose and Clemente have worked in some of the best restaurants in Philadelphia and including Le Bec Fin, Brasserie Perrier, La Veranda and Coyote Crossing. Their restaurant expresses their passion for Mexican, Latin and international cuisine, but concentrates on traditional Mexican regional dishes and great service. The menu offers classic pasta dishes, delicious homemade soups, which are a one of the specialties of Chef Jose.  Lunch, brunch and dinner specials daily.

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Almejas Lala

gallery_23992_4090_39290.jpg

fresh clams baked with chorizo, bread crumbs, rajas, cilantro and chipotle butter.

Sopa Azteca

gallery_23992_4090_59116.jpg

tomato and epazote soup, chicken, crispy tortilla strips, avocado, dollop of cream and cheese

Crema Conde

gallery_23992_4090_50246.jpg

pureed black bean soup, touch of cream

Chiles Rellenos de Cochinita

gallery_23992_4090_69433.jpg

roasted poblano peppers filled with roast shredded pork, raisins in a light tomato sauce

Enchiladas de Mole Poblano

gallery_23992_4090_5681.jpg

chicken breast enchiladas, mole, melted cheese and sour cream

Flan

gallery_23992_4090_24654.jpg

We thought everything was delicious. The clams tasted more of sausage than of the sea, but I don't see that as a problem! Both soups were subtle, but quite tasty, each with an excellent texture and blend of flavors. The Chiles Rellenos had a nice kick of spice, offsetting the slightly sweet meaty filling. The mole poblano was not the most intense I've had, but it might be the most balanced, covering three generous enchiladas. The flan was amazingly creamy, not gelatinous, with a slight coconut overtone to the vanilla and caramel flavors.

Service was very attentive and professional, the place is really quite lovely inside, the food was excellent, I have no idea why it's not packed. Sure it's more expensive than the taquerias and other casual places in the neighborhood, but the food truly does have another layer of refinement to it, clearly carefully made with quality ingredients. And it's still not exactly pricey: only about $50 for all that food.

Sure, I'll still hit other places for a quick taco jones, but for a more sophisticated meal, I'll be back here for sure.


Edited by philadining (log)

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mrbigjas   
Sopa Azteca

gallery_23992_4090_59116.jpg

tomato and epazote soup, chicken, crispy tortilla strips, avocado, dollop of cream and cheese

that sure is a verbose way of saying tortilla soup.

edit: oops, missed the 'sopa azteca' actual name of the dish up there. nevermind.


Edited by mrbigjas (log)

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wkl   

i ate here for the first time friday night and loved it. we had:

to start:

sopa azteca

quesadilias de huitlacoche

guacomole

entree:

split an order of molcajete mixto

dessert:

flan

coffee

everything was delicious and as all have noted the service is friendly and efficent.

some random notes:

the sopa azteca is comforting and very tasty, however i, and my dining partner , both commented that the broth tatsed kind of like campbells tomato soup. i'd be suprised if it wasn't made in house like probably everything there, but we both noticed this.

the cactus salad that accompained the quesadilias was delicious. i'd never had cactus before. i loved it. (does that mean it's bad for me, like everything else i get a taste for? :biggrin: )

the guacamole has queso fresco in it. i'd never experienced this addition, but the owner said it was a traditional ingredient. the guac was served a bit cold, so it was probably made early in the day and popped in the fridge, but we still devoured it.

the mixto was awesome! came with corn tortillos and a side of refried beans. refried beans were good, something i've never really go for ,but these were enjoyable. the mixto was very smokey and spicy, which totally clashed with the wines i brought, but that was my own fault.

the flan was excellent. i thought i tasted allspice or nutmeg, but the owner, clemente, said i was tasting the burnt sugar and good quality mexican vanilla.

coffee was great. la columbe, i think.

this was plenty of food for two. total bill, just shy of $50.

i'd totally go back, especially with a group, and i think, lots of cold beer or chilled rose.

this is a place to support.

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mrbigjas   
the cactus salad that accompained the quesadilias was delicious. i'd never had cactus before. i loved it. (does that mean it's bad for me, like everything else i get a taste for? :biggrin: )

don't worry wkl, cactus is totally good for you. it's high in vitamins a and c, and good minerals like calcium and magnesium. all with no fat and hardly any calories. good stuff.

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wkl   

good for me!? all of a sudden i don't like it as much! :raz:

gracias, senor james! there's actually a small mexican population in wilmington that the local grocerers cater to, so maybe i can find some here.

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If you can't find it there, El Jarochito grocery at Swanson & Wolf in South Philly definitely has cactus. I've seen it there when I go to buy my cheap limes there.

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mrbigjas   

yeah, goya makes jarred nopalitos, so it's available pretty much anywhere that has a decent goya selection.

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it's a block away from my apartment and we finally got around to going tonight.

everything was very good. loved the almejas and the mixto. flan was different than described above but absolutely amazing flavors and great texture. service was impeccable and impressive even to a professional server like myself. i have some good pics i just have to figure out where to upload them...

cactus salad

this was pretty cool. i can't remember if i've had cactus before. there were some little spicy peppers mixed in with the cactus. clemente said it's briefly marinated with some oil and vinegar and then grilled. it's firm but gives easily. it was a bit odd that the greens weren't dressed. i think the idea was maybe to toss it yourself at the table (we split it as a first course)? there was enough dressing on the cactus for this to make sense anyway.

gallery_52886_4384_4046.jpg

got it! here goes nothin...

Empanadas de Huitlacoche

i'm into the idea of huitlacoche but this is the second time i've had it (royal tavern has it in quesadilla form) and been underwhelmed. tasty, nice crispy texture on the outside but a bit bland on the inside. could have used some more texture or spice. we used the tomatillo salsa as a sauce.

gallery_52886_4384_60385.jpg

Almejas de Lala

my only gripe here is that they fall apart when you try to dig them out of the shell. if they had been separated before being broiled it would have been a pleasure to eat. superdelicious with the chorizo and the breadcrumbs. great texture and flavor combo.

gallery_52886_4384_4565.jpg

Molcajete Mixto

you can't see the bubbles and steam from here but it's pretty impressive. it smells great and the sauce has a nice spice to it. beef, whole scallions, chicken, cactus and queso fresco. comes with some smaller tortillas and you build your own.

gallery_52886_4384_20350.jpg

Rellenos

very nice. stuffed poblano with shredded pork inside. the rice was killer. soft and mild. the beans were perfect too (as noted above), must be that real lard!

gallery_52886_4384_32126.jpg

Flan (of the gods)

this stuff just killed it. we had a great time the whole way through and were just blown away by this flan. best flan ever! i see it's different from the other pic. less of a smooth texture and the whipped cream came with some crunchy chocolatey bits.

gallery_52886_4384_24303.jpg

so again:

service impeccable. folded napkins, chairs pulled out, wine poured, water filled, timing great.

food mostly very good, some great!

sangria and margarita mixes of the house are supposed to be very good.

get the flan!

i'm coming back on a cool summer night with a bunch of friends after a day of bocce and we're gonna drink pitchers of sangria.


Edited by mattohara (log)

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Seven of us went Saturday night.

The restaurant was full of large parties. It got pretty rowdy with a bachelorette party doing shots of tequila out of a red plastic something; I would blush to tell you about the container they used! We were obviously the oldest party in there, but we enjoyed and laughed with them; although refusing the kind offer to do tequila shots with them!

Had some Guacamole to start, pretty tasteless, the chips and salsa are better at Mexican Post...

Apps included clams, the corn mushroom empanada with cactus salad was good. The chicken soup looked good and large...the tuna and shrimp ceviche looked good.

Our Chile rellenos were bland. Someone had the Molcajete Mixto, which looked excellent! Served in the big mortar and pestle, with enough food for two! I tasted the sauce that was very good! Also good was a steak special. Very spicy and complex, like it had been marinating for awhile.

There were a few flans ordered, which were good with a nice caramel sauce to go with it.

We brought lots to drink, and it came out to about $31 a person.

I think we'll go to Taco Rienda soon. Or Las Cazcuelas. Or, Lolita, which I love!

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We got there Sunday, after the longest search-for-brunch in recent memory (we did schezuan tasty house -> Di Nics -> Salt & pepper -> going towards Cantina los caballitos and went by this place by chance).

We had the guacamole, which was .. OK, the mole poblano and the Chiles Rellenos.

The food is a lot closer, in a lot of ways, to what I've had during my past visits to Mexico. The only thing that definitely needed improvement (see Xochitl) was the guacamole, which had unripe avocados and was definitely the product of a blender.

The mole poblano was very good, flavourful and with an excellent balance. The chiles were also very good, although I personally would've toned down the tomato (personal preference).

It felt.. more authentic than Xochitl, but I still feel the food there is more to my taste (not necessarily 'better', except for the guacamole).

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