Mezcal, a new Oaxacan restaurant in San Jose, does justice to the region’s characteristically complex flavors. It’s an excellent addition to the downtown scene, says teela brown.

The Spanish-style decor is warm, and so is the service; the menu explains terms like tasajo and cecina (thin, salted slices of beef and pork, respectively). Chips come with a trio of moles: mild tomatillo and peanut, brick-red coloradito, and negro. That mole negro really stands out, a deeply flavored blend of chiles, chocolates and spices.

The enchiladas are stripped down to their essentials: just lightly fried corn tortillas napped in mole coloradito, then folded and sprinkled with crumbled cheese and sliced raw onions. “When corn tortillas and mole are this good, this is just how I like my enchiladas,” teela brown says. “The tortillas have a tender but chewy bite, and that rich complex slightly spicy mole made it a perfect combination.” Homemade pickles also come on the side, making their supermarket equivalents seem like pathetic imitators.

Judging by the dreamy expression on the face of a nearby diner chowing down on chicken tamales with mole negro, those were pretty good too. Another source recommended the chile relleno, stuffed with pork and chicken picadillo. Just beware the undercooked arroz con leche.

Mezcal [South Bay]
25 W. San Fernando Street, San Jose

Board Link: Mezcal Restaurant in San Jose opens. Lunch report

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