Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mole Poblano

On our way back from hiking the Makapuu Ridge today, we wanted to stop somewhere for lunch. Overall, we've been very pleased with the series of books that include Oahu Revealed and Maui Revealed (they've got a book for each of the islands). I can't imagine how long it took those folks to go around and collect all the gouge on the best places to eat and best sites to see. We've been living here 8 months now and have barely made a dent in all the books' recommendations. I suppose if your full time job was to explore the island and write about what you found, then you might get it done a bit quicker, eh?

Since we were on the east side of the island, we flipped to the back of the Oahu Revealed book and looked for East Honolulu dining. We found a listing for Azteca, and the authors stated it was "the best Mexican food on Oahu." Being the Mexican food addict that I am, I said to myself, "Self, THIS I've GOTTA try!"

Bottom Line Up Front: I second the motion! Azteca is hands-down THE BEST Mexican restaurant we've found on the island. Not just for the food, either. The quality of the food, the prices of the food, and the service were all superb. The atmosphere is a typical hole-in-the-wall store-front taco shop - no frills, just a Mexican flag and a painting of Aztecs and snakes and stuff.

Whenever I go to a Mexican restaurant for the first time, perusing the menu gives me an impression of how authentic the place is going to be. If I see something like mole poblano (pronounced "moh-lay poh-blah-no"), then I start to get excited. Mole ("moh-lay") sauce is made from unsweetened chocolate and a mixture of several chili peppers. From the wikipedia article on mole:
Mole poblano is prepared with dried chile peppers (commonly ancho, pasilla, mulato and chipotle), ground nuts and/or seeds (almonds, indigenous peanuts, and/or sesame seeds), spices, Mexican chocolate (cacao ground with sugar and cinnamon and occasionally nuts), salt, and a variety of other ingredients including charred avocado leaves, onions, garlic. Dried seasonings such as ground oregano are also used.In order to provide a rich thickness to the sauce, bread crumbs or crackers are added to the mix. The chicken or turkey is cooked by completely boiling it on a pot with water, a little bit of salt and a piece of onion to give the broth some flavor.
In most cases, if I SEE mole on the menu, then I will try it. Sometimes, it's good and I make a mental note that THIS is a GOOD Mexican restaurant. In other cases, it's okay or blah, and I say to myself, "Self, they can talk the talk, but they can't walk the walk."

In Azteca's case, I had the chicken enchiladas with mole sauce, and they were truly spectacular. I also had a side order of some of their guacamole and it was superb. (Again, not quite as good as LW's guacamole, but still darn good!) For dessert, I just couldn't resist and HAD to try their flan with kahlua. It was fabulous!

So like Cilantro over on Maui, I am going to make the bold statement that if you like Mexican food and you're on the island of Oahu, then you MUST go to Azteca!

1 comment:

Sam said...

OOHH mole AND flan? Wow! Sounds like a great meal!