Hidden on Palm Ave (1 block west of Broadway) close to Del Monte, this taqueria serves assertively flavored food. The family hails from Santa Ines in the Yatzeche region of Oaxaca and prepares many wonderful dishes in the Oaxacan tradition. And this is a family restuarant; one can watch what would seem to be auntie and grandma working in the open kitchen. This no-holds-barred food is not for the faint of heart or timid of tongue.
The thin tortilla chips that greet you are served with a powerful deep red salsa speckled with chile seeds. Agua frescas (I preferred the jamaica to the horchata) and real Mexican soft drinks – yes, real Mexican Coke or 7 Up as well as Mexican sodas – are available. Of course there is beer and for us winos, Yatzeche carries Heller Carmel Valley Cachagua Cab by the bottle (Only on the Monterey Peninsula would a hole-in-the-wall Oaxacan taqueria carry an excellent regional cabernet sauvignon).
While it is open from 7 AM to 9 PM every day, both of my visits were at lunch time. One can order burritos, tortas, empanadas (here thick corn tortillas folded over a filling), quesadillas, tacos or tostadas ala carte with a variety of meat choices. However for the most part, my dining companions and I focused on the dinner plates.
Two different moles are offered with a choice of meats, and both are nearly black in color and full of mole flavor. The enchiladas Santa Ines are a mound of soft corn tortillas covered in a powerful dark red guajillo and chileancho sauce topped with crumbles of queso fresco. With this dish, one’s choice of meat is served beside the tortilla mound on top of the same sauce. Not like any enchiladas I've ever eaten elsewhere. The chile relleno (I ordered the chicken version) is a very spicy pasilla or agua chile with ample eggy breading, stuffed with chicken and chopped fresh tomato. Unique among the chile rellenos of my acquaintance, the chile itself dominated the dish, its heat inflaming every bite with fire. The carne asada, with nicely marinated steak cut into bite-sized pieces, was probably the dish most like standard Mexican food. My favorite entrée had to be the costilla de puerco con nopales en salsa roja, a mixture of tasty country pork ribs and a lot of sliced tangy, slightly sour cactus in another outstanding red sauce.
Most of the entrees came with whole frijoles – not refritos – and very tasty rice. The tortillas here are all white corn, handmade and homemade, varying in thickness depending on their use.
If you’re looking for same-ol’, same-ol’ Mexican food, this is not the place to go. If you are looking to expand your horizons and taste some unusual and unusually spicy (and I should stress spicy in both senses, fiery and full of flavor) dishes, you need to try Yatzeche.
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