Away from the bustle of the city in a beautiful pocket of Williamsburg overlooking the East River is the fourth location of Mole, headed by husband and wife Nick Cervera and Guadalupe Elizalde. The décor perfectly suits the authenticity of the cuisine. Nestled on the corner of Kent Avenue and North 4th Street, the restaurant has its doors and side windows open, allowing for outdoor dining. Inside the restaurant are black and white photos of Mexico, making it easy for diners to think they are somewhere else.
We each tried different cocktails. Chelsea had a delicious and refreshing mojito, while I tried a drink called the diablo, a unique mix of tequila, grapefruit and lime juices, and hot sauce. I wouldn’t recommend it for people nursing an ulcer, but for everyone else it is a great mix of citrus and heat, one that works surprisingly well.
For the appetizer, we had the salsa sampler, which consisted of five different—but all equally delicious —salsas. Clockwise from the top, the sampler had a cool tomatillo-based salsa verde, a smoky chipotle salsa, a tangy guajillo salsa, “drunken” salsa (made with beer), and a hand-crushed salsa made from fire-roasted tomatoes and onions. They were all great, but my personal favorite had to be the chipotle and guajillo salsas.
When Nick sat down with us to take our order, we happened to be eyeballing two of the dishes he strongly recommended: the fish tacos and cochinita pibil. The fish tacos were made with beer-battered flounder, and we got a large pile of fish. Nick said with a smile there was enough fish for more than the three tortillas provided with the dish. It was incredible—and we wound up taking most of it home with us. With sides of chipotle mayo and jalapeno sour cream, the fish tacos are a great variation on a familiar favorite.
Nick told us Guadalupe’s mother makes the mole poblano by hand and ships it from Mexico. Mole poblano is a spicy sauce that uses chocolate as one of its main ingredients. We ordered a half chicken served with mole poblano. The sauce was delicious; mole is a sauce that has to be tasted to be believed, if you haven’t had it before. It is a unique combination of the sweet chocolate flavor, with other traditional Mexican flavorings. The chicken was also nice and tender.
The last dish, the cochinita pibil, holds a place as one of the three best meals I have ever eaten in my life, and that is not a hyperbole. This dish is one I had wanted to try for years, having first heard of it in the 2003 film Once Upon A Time In Mexico. Johnny Depp plays an unstable CIA agent who orders cochinita pibil everywhere he goes. The DVD of the movie includes a feature with director Robert Rodriguez where he shows the audience how to prepare the dish. It is a slow-roasted pork, flavored with citrus and an annatto-based sauce called achiote paste.
The meat was so tender that it fell apart with the prodding of a fork, served in a vivid orange-red sauce that was a fantastic array of flavors. It was salty, tangy, a little fruity, and the pork itself was perfect. The pork came with tortillas, black beans, and pickled onions. By itself, the pork was wonderful, but it was even better in taco form. To accompany these three dishes, we had a side order of grilled cactus. It had a great flavor, somewhat close to zucchini.
For dessert, we had the flan. It was a perfect finish to the meal, creamy and sweet. We split a Mexican coffee, which combined coffee with Kahlua and tequila, topped with whipped cream. The meal was outstanding, a great recommendation for fans of authentic Mexican cuisine or anyone with an adventurous palate. Be sure to check out their brunch specials on weekends, and for a real treat order the guacamole, hand-made right before your eyes.
Mole Mexican Bar & Grill
178 Kent Avenue, corner of North 4th Street
Locations for other Mole Restaurants:
Mole Restaurante Mexicano & Tequileria
57 Jane Street, corner of Hudson
Mole Mexican Bar & Grill
205 Allen Street at Houston Street
Taco Taco Cocina Tradicional Mexicano
1726 Second Avenue, between East 89th and 90th Streets