This past Monday, I hosted an "Oaxacan Feast" and let me tell you, our group definitely did some major feasting as we experienced a total of 14 different dishes. Two of those dishes were the obligatory rice and beans, but the other 12 are what I'm going to talk about below.
When we arrived, they first took our agua fresca drink orders. Throughout the evening, we could get refills of mango, guava or orange. I pretty much stuck with the guava drink the whole night. It was a little sweet for my taste, but I still liked it. Before our main food orders came out, we noshed on tortilla chips, which was topped with red mole sauce and maybe, cotija cheese? The mole sauce was tasty which definitely was a good indication of what was to come, so here we go:
1. Ensalada de Nopalitos (cactus tossed salad)
– I didn't care for this salad too much. The nopales seemed a little slimy to me. I didn't think the cheese added much to the salad and whatever dressing they used was really bland.
2. Botana Oaxaquena (assorted tasting plate, including Oaxacan string cheese, memelas, chorizo, tazajo and cecina, a fresh stuffed chile with picadillo, fried pork ribs and guacamole)
– This appetizer plate is meant just for 8 people, but I think that it can probably feed 10. It's a lot of food. I liked everything on the plate, but my favorites were the chorizo, which are spicy fried sausages. If you cut into and spread the sausage meat into the tortilla, put a little salsa and than fold it, that was just another way to enjoy it, but just on its own was good enough for me.
I also liked the Oaxacan cheese, stretchy and a little salty, but good and the memela, once I got over the fact that it was cooked with lard, was really good. It was a thick corn tortilla that had a bean puree and melted cheese on top of it and was really yummy.
3. Camarones Enchipotlados (shrimp sautéed in a chipotle sauce (spicy)
– The chiptole sauce for this shrimp was awesome. You got a little bit of heat with smoky undertones. I would have liked it spicier, but still a very good dish.
4. Filete a la Talla (red snapper fish marinated with a unique in-house salsa, oven cooked)
– This was actually an interesting dish in that it's not on the menu at the Koreatown location, but it is on the menu at the Olympic location, but since I really wanted it, they accommodated me by sending the Olympic chef to the Koreatown location to make it. I'm so glad that I insisted. Although the fish was a teensy bit dry, the sauce that was encrusted on it really made the dish. I'm not sure what the sauce was made of, but it reminded me of a rich flavorful tomato sauce with a little bit of spice, but not overwhelming.
5. Nopal Zapoteco (grilled cactus, topped with grilled beef, onions, tomato, bell pepper and cheese)
– After having experienced this dish recently also at La Casita and now here, I think I know that I'm not a fan of this dish. I just don't like the mouth texture of the cheese, beef and nopales combined.
6. Coloradito Con Puerco (pork covered with Oaxaca's famous red mole, made from chiles, nuts, seeds, spices and Oaxacan chocolate)
– Finally, we get the first of the 4 mole dishes that I had picked out. I already experienced a bit of this with the tortilla chips, but now we have it in its full glory. Of the four, this red mole was my favorite. There was just so much to it. I can't describe completely why I liked it so much, but there just seemed to be more flavor layers, compared to the three moles that followed this one.
7. Amarillo de Res (bowl of beef with yellow mole flavored with chiles, cloves and cumin)
– This is the first time I ever had yellow mole and it was interesting. With the cumin as a part of this sauce, for some reason, I had visions of Indian food in the sense that the spicing seemed kind of similar. It had just a different flavor profile than the red mole, but one I enjoyed.
8. Verde de Pollo (bowl of chicken with green mole made from fresh spicy green chiles with herbs including hierba santa and epazote)
– This was also the first time I had green mole. It was definitely lacking in any kind of heat as opposed to the red or the yellow moles, but again, a completely different flavor profile from either the red or yellow moles. It was a lighter mole than the others and tasted "greener", "grassier", but the epazote and hierba santa gave it a little bit of pungency that made it from being too bland.
9. Tamal Oaxaqueno de Mole con Pollo (finely ground corn dough packages, filled with shredded chicken in black mole and wrapped in banana leaves)
– This tamal was wrapped in the way that I didn't expect. Instead of opening up the banana leaves to see all of the tamal, it was if it was wrapped in layers. You open up one layer to eat part of the tamal and than open up the second layer for another part of the tamal, etc.
What bothered me about this dish was the shredded chicken because the meat was dry and a little stringy. The masa was good, but I've had better. The black mole was good, but it didn't wow me that much. Compared to the red mole, which I loved, this particular sauce didn't pack the flavor punch I would have expected. It could also be that my palate was exhausted. We had a whole bunch of food before this black mole came out, so I feel like I have to go back and check it out again to see if I like it better.
10. Chuleta De Puerco Enchilado Frito (chile-marinated and fried pork chops)
– I really liked this pork, but it was interesting in that it reminded me of Chinese BBQ Pork.
11. Empanadas de Huitlacoche (huge, handmade corn tortilla folded and stuffed with huitlacoche)
– For the life of me, I couldn't get into this dish. The texture of this corn fungus just didn't do anything for me.
12. Flan (homemade flan)
– So ends our meal with dessert and we all got flan. I didn't care for the flan at all. It had the consistency of jello gelatin. I prefer flan that's creamier.
So ends the "Oaxacan Feast". You can imagine that we were all stuffed beyond compare. Overall, I liked the food at Guelaguetza, but I'm glad that I was able to do a pretty good sampling of what's on their menu, because there are certain things I would certainly go back for and others I would skip entirely.
To see pictures, go to:
3337 1/2 W. 8th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90005