I am sure I first heard about La Flor de Oaxaca, located in the Crossroads Shopping Center on Rio Road on this board, and filed it away in my mind as a place to try, since I am often in that area after diving or hiking at Pt. Lobos. My impression was that it was a lower end taqueria, but I am not sure if that was based on prior reports, or just my assumption. Now of course, a search doesnt turn up any prior posts. Other than the one just below. So,perhaps the hound that originally recommended it will come forward with his/her thoughts, but in the meantime, here is my report:
We were looking for a place for a quick and tasty lunch near Carmel, and I suggested we try La Flor.
First impressions: a very cute, small place, perhaps ten tables attractively decorated with Diego Rivera posters and other Mexican art on the walls. At 12:30 on Sunday afternoon only two other tables were taken, and we took a comfortable table near the window. There are a few tables outside, but the view is just of the parking lot.
The one server immediately brought us menus, chips and salsas. Glanced at the menus and Yikes! Sticker shock! The cheapest items on the menu were Chalupas and Memelitas at about $5, but most entrees ranged from $9 (tacos) to $17 (huachinango Veracruzano), with most entrees in the $10 to $12 range. Even burritos are $9 (served as a plato with rice and beans only) Oh well, this is Carmel, after all, even if it is a shopping center anchored by Safeway. Menu prices are the same at both lunch and dinner, so dinner would be relatively less painless (compared to other Carmel places, not compared to, say, Seaside)/.
But, onto the food. Our initial impressions were not positive, based on that salsa. While the chips were fresh and warm, the salsas were served in tiny dishes, and werent that impressive. One tasted like canned tomato puree with a dash of picante sauce, the other had cilantro and onion and a bit more kick, but had a sour aftertaste that I found distracting. Lime perhaps?
We concentrated on ordering decisions, as the menu is long with a pleasing variety. There are a number of seafood dishes, including ceviche, the hauchinango, various shrimp dishes, Caldo Siete Mares, and several moles, including both a Oaxacan chicken mole and Mole Poblano, with the traditional turkey. Enchiladas Oaxaquenos also caught my eye: four enchiladas served with three pieces of fried chicken, black beans and rice ($12.95)
I would have loved to have tried more of the menu, but my mind was made up as soon as I saw they had Sopa del Albondigas on the menu. Hubby wanted something mild, and ordered the enchiladas verdes de pollo. Ice tea and water were brought quickly and cheerfully, along with another basket of chips.
After a short wait, (given the other post, I should specify: it took between five and ten minutes to get our meals, and the order was correct) our meals arrive. Both portions were generous. We took our first bites and smiled at each other. Things were definitely looking up! Hubbys enchiladas (I believe the order had three) had a very good tomatillo sauce, and although they were topped with a bit more cheese than sister Janet (Janet of Reno check the General Topics boards) would like :-) , the cheese didnt overpower the sauce or the shredded, spiced chicken stuffed inside. The enchiladas were served with excellent rice flavored with onion, chicken broth and tomatoes; smoky, delicious black beans; tortillas, and a small green salad.
The albondigas were served in a huge bowl with four fresh and tasty corn tortillas on the side. There were at least ten meatballs in the broth, each a bit smaller than a golf ball. I was somewhat disappointed not to get the accompaniments on the side that often come with Mexican soups (chopped onion, oregano, cilantro, rice) but my disappointment disappeared as soon as I took my first sip. Ive been searching the bay area for really good albondigas soup for a long time, and that soup had the base of my dreams: it was rich and both meaty and tomatoey, with tastes of jalapeno, onion, cilantro and other herbs. The meatballs were obviously formed individually by hand, and I would guess cooked right in the soup, so I could forgive the fact that they had a bit less filler and spice than I would have liked. It was really the soup base that had me, and our server beamed with pride when I told him these were the best albondigas Id had in a long time.
Thirty or forty minutes later we walked out, stuffed and happy. As we were leaving, hubby turned to me and said: that place was really good. Dont tell me, you heard about it on Chowhounds, right?'
Yes, and we will be back, in spite of a tab for lunch for two of $33 with tax and tip!
So, right after writing this report and as I was getting ready to post it, I see Food Tyrants opposite view below. All I can say is: well, yes, I could be biased, since my love of good albondigas borders on an obsession that has been incredibly hard to satisfy in Northern California, and that love will go a long way towards soothing any rough spots at a restaurant for me, but then again, I have mentioned all the rough spots (the red salsa, the prices, etc).. The service was timely and friendly, dishes were clean and removed promptly, and the food ranged from tasty (enchiladas) to dreamy (the albondigas).
Next time, Ill probably go at dinner for the same price, but you wont be able to keep me away, not even with a bad post on Chowhound. Perhaps next time, I will ask if I can get a smaller soup as an appetizer before trying the Mole Poblano. I hope others will try it and report back as well!
La Flor de Oaxaca
145 Crossroads Blvd.
Crossroads Shopping Village
Carmel, CA 93923