A friend has moved to Inman Square so now weve got a fine excuse to check out all the restaurants in that direction weve been neglecting. We foolishly bothered making reservations for Monday night at Ole Mexican Grill (it was dead when we got there, about 4 tables came in while we were there from 6:30-8pm or so). As soon as we made these plans I had already planned on the Pozole as my appetizer. Though only half-Mexican, my Mexican half has lately been feeling neglected chow-wise.
A few words about hominy first. There are several ways to make it and though no study has been done in this area; it is my belief that some ways taste astoundingly better than others. The cheapest way to turn corn into hominy (youre basically removing the kernel and the husk using some combination of chemicals and mechanics) is to soak it in LYE. Thats right, LYE. Remember Fight Club when he burned his hand. That was lye. Thats used to make crappy hominy and can be found in crappy pozole. Now Im not saying hominy is an amazing food but you can make a comparatively more delicious hominy using baking soda, or better yet, lime and salt. This is a rather elaborate process and, in any of the cases, requires lots and lots of rinsing.
That said, their pozole was great. Good hominy (Im guessing lime and salt, frozen, then sent to them and they boil it for several hours), good pieces of pork (wouldnt have minded some more pork though), all the proper pozole accoutrement (oregano, radish matchsticks, lime, onion, avacado which Id never seen before but was delightful, and I believe cilantro and these little baby fried flour tortilla chips which were good though a tortilla might have been nicer).
The ladies split some nachos and my cursory inspection lead me to believe that they were, at sweet long last, nachos made of flour tortilla chips. Head and shoulders better than corn tortilla chips. Flour chips are simply better at holding toppings, holding up to liquid, and are advantageously thicker, though this is simply a matter of preference.
We got a pitcher of sangria, which, after we all finished our glasses, we realized the fruit in it was, in fact, rhubarb. Not bad at all for a twist.
I ordered the Pato con Mole Negro basically because you need to see if you get a perfect batch. Mole sauce requires such an elaborate preparation method, offering so many variables where things can get mucked up, that you wonder if its worth all the trouble. Once youve had a perfect batch, you realize that it IS worth the trouble and that chocolate and pumpkin seeds and chilis and cinnamon and allspice and every other stupid little thing in their BELONGS in their creating this exotic, smoky, sweet Whitman-esque coalescence of all things beautiful. So yes, every time I see it on a menu I order it, I must, its that good when done properly.
That said, it wasnt that good. Too chocolatey and not enough of the earthier, savory spices from the garlic and such. The duck was good, could have been more tender but was by no means dry or rubbery, just not quite as falling-off-the-bone as I like. Then again, never once growing up eating Mexican food did I or anyone I ever heard of eat duck a la Mexicano. Mexican cuisine varies widely depending by US region. East Coast Mexican is different than Midwest Mexican, which is different than Texan, and Californian, and so on. Ive learned that there are no universal standards and that sadly, you East Coast natives could have lived your whole lives thinking that rice and beans means black beans instead of refried pinto beans. It came with some butternut squash and some spinach w/garlic and pine nuts. All pretty good. Maybe in all a bit too pricey for what it was, if only by $2 an entrée or so.
I tried someone elses taquitos (a term I refuse to use and will henceforth call them flautas as I was raised calling them) and they were also sub-par. Too dry using only white chicken meat. I am more and more coming to believe that no one actually makes their own flautas anymore as these seem to be rolled a little too neatly and cleanly. A good flauta is like a good hard shell taco, ragged and bubbled unevenly from the grease. These could have come out of the frozen party good section at Sams Club.
I'd definitely go back but just plan my ordering better, definitely would be great for just a big bowl of pozole and a Negro Modelo for lunch.