Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Monte Alban Restaurant


Los Angeles, CA. For months a friend teased me with images of this gigantic Burrito a la Oaxaquena. Once with a picture at Monte Alban Restaurant but many times as a sauce laden "To Go" order. Proudly serving authentic Oaxacan cuisine, this restaurant introduces dishes with traditionally known foods like chorizo and chicharron, while integrating less commonly known names like the opuntia cactus, molcajete salsa, and their famed mole negro. So why go here for just a burrito? Though the restaurant has a number of dishes I'd try, I was already hungering for only one in particular.

Monte Alban takes the complex flavor combination of mole negro and spoons it over a burrito stuffed to capacity with chicken breast, rice, black beans, lettuce, tomato, onions, cilantro, and avocado. It sounded like a good idea in theory. It looked like a good idea from the images I've seen. So in taking my seat, ordering the dish I hungered for and to finally indulge? The good idea rang true. Topped with a decorative drizzle of sour cream, I ate and I ate, until the plate was clean. The burrito itself was pretty standard but the sauce upgraded it to a new level. The mole negro was sharp, yet smooth, bitter, yet sweet, and overall a nice balance of flavor that was hard to to truly discern. The plate became a burrito battlefield, as I worked the sauce into each bite. Though I can't attest to the menu and other offerings, I can say that I've been introduced to quite the savory and 'saucy' flavor.

Mole Negro, the prized sauce of this dish, is one of the moles offered at Monte Alban and a known specialty in Oaxacan culture. As one of seven produced in the region, it makes sense to offer a few of them up for us consumers to try. Though I'm not familiar in mole preparation, from reading through recipes on various websites, it appears mole negro is known to include two or more peppers (pasilla, mulato) and a blend of black pepper, achiote (used as a colorant), cumin, cloves, anise (flavor similar to fennel), tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, sesame seeds and often chocolate. It also includes a plant called hoja santa, with tones similar to that of nutmeg, tarragon, and black pepper, among others. The ingredients can be toasted or roasted, pureed, combined and cooked down in a large pot. Sounds simple? It didn't to me either. However, if not going to a Latin-American market to buy a mole negro paste, stopping in to a restaurant that serves it is the next best thing.

Monte Alban Restaurant
11927 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 444-7736

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