The Missus was really missing the Mole Poblano from Los Pueblos and nothing could really solve the issue. So I thought it was about time that instead of heading to LA for Chinese, we'd just get out to Escondido and El Tejate, a Oaxacan restaurant....no it's not mole poblano, but Oaxaca is known for the complex mole negro, which I've been told several times is the most complex and difficult to make mole. I'd been wanting to go for a while. In fact, my good friends TFD and MrC actually stopped in the strip mall once, where I recall telling them about this place, but we just could never make it.
So on a lazy weekend morning, the Missus and I headed on up to Escondido and El Tejate, which of course is located in a strip mall, next to a Thai/Lao Market, a Thai Restaurant, and a Mediterranean place.
The restaurant itself doesn't look very large, but is fairly big as it is divided into two sections...the walls are painted in bright colors which added a nice contrast to the rather dark furnishings. We were waited upon by a very nice young lady, i'm thinking perhaps the daughter of the woman in the kitchen or the gentleman watching stuff on the laptop? This had the feel of a mom and pop place, the pace is relaxed and like a complex mole, it takes time.
There were some chips delivered with our menus; thick and crisp, though the "salsa" was seemed like straight up chilies scalded on the comal and blended with water.
We ended up ordering quite a bit, with things starting off with the Tlayuda, the folks here kindly made it with mole negro.
For the Missus the mole was love at first bite, we also thought the Quesillo - the Queso Oaxaca was pleasant, stringy like string cheese, with a tiny bit of milkiness like a very mild jack cheese. The Tlayuda is a large, thin tortilla, about 16 inches or so wide. The thickness is almost like the thinnest of thin crusts for pizza. It was both hard and chewy at the same time, and not really our thing. Though the Missus loved that mole.
I got the Enchiladas de Mole Negro ($10.50).
The mole seemed mild at first, but paying attention you'll quickly notice the complexity, first the nuttiness, then a mild sweetness, with clove-cinnamon hints, followed by a light sneaky heat. It was pretty rich stuff, I only finished one of the three enchiladas, but perhaps that's because I finished up the Tlayuda for the Missus. I enjoyed how the pungent onion cut through the richness, but the Missus thought it just interrupted the flavors. The chicken in the enchiladas was white meat and quite dry. The rice was very tasty......I would normally love this, but for some reason, it just didn't seem to go with the mole negro.
The Missus absolutely loved the Memilitas ($5).
The Missus was in masa heaven....these were like thinner sopes, with just a smear of tasty refried black beans and queso Oaxaca. Nicely moist and pliable enough to fold, these were missing just one thing for the Missus, you got it....mole negro. She availed Herself of the mole on my plate and wiped this out.
The last item that arrived was actually one of the appetizers....I just had to try the Chapulines ($8.95):
In case you don't know what Chapulines are, you can find out more here. And in case you want a close-up, you can see one up close and personal....here:
These were very well roasted and quite light...the flavor is like a very mild shrimp, though it was hard to tell because of the amount of tajinseasoning. Salty and puckery flavors, this is good beer food. If folks go expecting something outrageous they'll be disappointed, it's still quite good. We took most of it home and the Missus snacked on it until it was finished. Maybe next time we'll try the pusanos de maguey?
El Tejate Restaurante
205 W Mission Ave
Escondido, CA 92025
Open Daily 10am - 8pm