I first spotted Los Molcajetes a couple months ago while driving down Riverside Drive in Watsonville. The Comida Oaxaquena sign in the window made this a must try and I finally made it in for a lunch this week. The owners of this place have done a nice job of creating a cheerful though unfortunately very quiet (at least at lunch) place in what is not the most scenic block of Watsonville. We were given a large basket of very thin chips, which I dont think were homemade, but of good quality. Both salsas on offer were very good; a smooth med. spicy vinegary red salsa and a nopales salsa with chunks of cactus, tomato, onion and jalapeno. I quickly focused on the Oaxaca section of the menu and selected the mole and the tamale and from the general menu added a Huarache Al Pastor.
The mole was well balanced with good depth of flavor. I have had more exciting moles, but the interaction of flavors in their version worked for me; modest chile flavor but not overly sweet and with a subtle bitterness in the background. It was served on a braised chicken leg and thigh and served with rice and beans. The homemade corn tortillas that came were thick and fresh and a great way to soak up extra mole.
The tamale was wrapped in banana leaves and was a very thin rectangle. Id say it was 4.5 wide and maybe 10 long and less than a half inch thick. There was not much filling but it was tasty shredded pork in what I assume was the same mole as came with the chicken although it was hard to be sure as it was not very saucy. The masa was moist and had picked up a nice herbal quality from the wrapping. I quite liked it and a very different style than most of the tamales in the area. They also had cheaper tamales in another section of the menu and I am curious to see if these are a more northern corn husked version. FYI this was not a particularly filling dish so be sure to order a side with this one if you are hungry.
The huarche was a bit different than other versions I have tried. The masa dough was very thin and it was almost an oval tortilla that had been griddled rather than a thicker more fried tasting masa disk. It was covered with a smear of refritos and a large pile of chunks of pork with queso fresca, onions, and cilantro. The pork had a decent marinade and overall I quite liked the dish though it would have been better with a thicker sole.
Overall I was very pleased and am already thinking about a return trip. Unfortunately I dont recall the other oaxacan dishes but their business card mentions gorditas zacatecanas as a specialty. They also had signs posted for specials like birria on the weekends (both beef and goat), posole, carne en su jugo etc. Prices were very modest with these 3 items plus a soda and an agua fresca costing <$20.
Also FYI I checked out the Del Sol Market up the street, which was pretty nice. Picked up some interesting chiles and a pound of takeout carnitas. Worth a visit after your meal.
Autentica Comida Oaxaquena
51 Riverside Dr.