I don’t know, I hate that word, and I have zero credibility. But…
Rocio has been the most popular restaurant so far this year: 6 visits since February for this chower. Enroute from airport late Winter, guided by a quick Yelp search (who says it’s totally useless? Certainly not Jonathan “I Kind of Like Yelp” Gold), a restaurant across a row of industrial buildings and next to a mattress store appeared on the side of a narrow road. Now, Elina Shatkin just hates the description of restaurants in a lonely stretch of road, but it seems beyond fitting when used on Rocio’s. There are no restaurants around, no groceries, and hardly a sign of human activity. Maywood Ave feels pretty damned lonely.
(CW: Mole de los Dioses, mole verde, mole tequila con limon, mole cafe)
All the Yelp entries spoke of mole, and heck, Ms. Rocio was blazen enough to self-label the sauces as “godly”. You’d be a tard not to try the moles. However, you’d also be hasty if you just asked for a small army of ramekins full of moles to be plopped and slopped by hecho a mano tortillas. The mole vs. meats menu is setup a bit Counter-esque, select a meat, then select a sauce. But select carefully. Here, the edible flesh of walking land animals is pounded rather thinly, then seared. This cooking method can lead to disastrous protein base covered by strong sauces. The pork was fatty, the chicken was a bit dry, and the beef overdone. Veal was the safest vessel for mole time and again. The dark and chocolaty moles (Qaxaqueno, poblano, tequila con Limon) are best on red meats. The lighter sauces (Mandarin orange, mole verde) fit fish (salmon & white fish), and the medium sauces (pipian rojo, mole cafe) seems to serve shrimp better. Oddly the “mole de los dioses”, a concoction of huitlacoche and chilies, turned the chicken breast fillet into a dish carrying all the textural familiarities of chicken parmigian, but with “slightly” more exotic flavors, and was all sorts of wonderful.
There is no need to go all “deep end” here with the fake stewed monkey meat and what-not. The best way to approach this Mexican restaurant with modern sensibilities (sauteed vegetables instead of beans, meats not drenched in lard) is to apply typical Western dining progression: apps, entree, dessert. The tortilla soup with blended beans, at $3.95, is ridiculously tasty, and probably unlike any tortilla soup pre-Rocio discovery. Pair the soup gorditas de barbacoa or tres empanadas (neon green beasts seen above) and there you have apps for 2. Mains can be a plate of rich mole on ternera for her, and chicken enmoladas in mole poblano. Desserts, at $4.95 per, are bargains, and do not need to be shared as they don’t overwhelm. The rompope flan and the platanos are examples of what can be done by a trained chef willing to see beyond the plebian call for more cheap, gross, street food.
CW: chilaquiles, huevos rancheros picantes, “hotcakes”, the fantastic molletes
But this restaurant does not stop at just dinner. Breakfast starts when Rocio first arrives at the Huntington Park locale. She can be found shortordering it up at the griddle, dishing out perfectly done pancakes topped with floral honey. At $3.50 for hotcakes, the restaurant’s low-rent location is appreciated by both the wallet and the stomach. Chilaquiles (show above) with the calabaza, or mole rojos are the tastiest chilaqulies imaginable in Los Angeles, and perhaps even more so at only $6 per. Either can be elevated by a request of chorizo topping. Instead of OJ, it’s far better to start off with the aguas fresca here: limonade with chia seed, jimaica with strawberry, nopales, guayaba, or just whatever they have beyond the horchata:
Hidden fact: Rocio’s run a $17 “prix fixe” option — a 3 course meal of chicken breast with any (available) mole, a soup, and a dessert. There isn’t a better meal in LA, not even a $6 3-item Chinese bento from Oriental Express, that offers a higher taste:dollar ratio than this.
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