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Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., Nov. 17
You can call this every cliché in the book...the hidden jewel, the Shangri-Là, whatever. Fact is right here, yards south of the border...
...in the Casa del Mole (543 Aquiles Serdan, Colonia Libertad, 011.52.664.682-9074) delivers mole poblano like I've never had anywhere else. Totally Rico, like a deep-flavored liqueur you share only with your special squeeze. Or like the first time you discover real cacao chocolate. Or in my case, the first time I took a guzzle of Arrogant Bastard.
Because there's echoes of all that kind of stuff in the deep molasses-ish, winey, stout-like, velvet-peppery mole that's smothering this-here thigh of chicken in front of me.
I came past this place ten minutes up from the border crossing, but heading east and north, practically back up to the line.
You could go to safer, more middle class versions of the Casa del Mole in the Rio district, or over on Playas. but this is the original and feels like what it is: the real thing.
Yes, Colonia Libertad is kinda scrubby, but full of life, like a real Mexican town. And just past "Mofles-Radiadores Tony," thar she blows, even if it is behind heavily grilled windows. Heh heh, Mofles turns into Moles.
"La Casa del Mole."
Inside is all painted white tile, yellow stucco walls, brown arches, a large chocolate-brown Virgin of Guadalupe...
...niches with other religious relics, a chuckling fountain, tropical plants, shiny mocha booths that look like bench seats from grandpa's Olds Cutlass, and music, like Los Panchos, singing close harmonies over the system.
The place is surprisingly crowded at four in the afternoon till you remember we're talking Mexican lunchtime. They say good wine needs no bush. Tijuanenses know this place. Businessmen, families, mothers, hip kids are all here, feeding their mole addiction.
Geraldo the mesero comes up with chips, salsa, menu.
But there's no issue here. All the other stuff fuzzes out below the very first item, "Especialidad de la Casa," Mole Poblano (mole concocted in the great state of Puebla.)
With a chicken leg it's 85 pesos. Maybe $6.50. But it comes with a chicken consommé with rice and cilantro...
...and the plate itself has Spanish rice, refried beans and hot corn tortillas, along with the big chocolate-covered chicken steaming untold aromas up my nostrils.
I also get a glass of horchata, the rice drink (19 pesos, say $1.50).
I'm kinda prepared to be disappointed, because you build up expectations, but this mole oozing all over my chicken and dotted with sesame seeds is simply wicked. Deep, sweet, tangy, thick, with a tantalizing alcoholic feel. It is supposed to have lots of chocolate, of course (another Mexican invention), plus ground poblano chile, guajillo chile and some pasilla chile, plus ground peanut sauce.
Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's the chocolate in it, but I find it so addictive I eat it down to the last lick. Dang but that was good.
Oh, and also part of the deal: a sweet tamal wrapped hot in a corn husk with pineapple inside.
If you feel too queasy about coming up to Colonia Libertad, catch a cab to their slightly more expensive place down in the Rio district. Don't worry: that location is where they make this actual mole.
By the way: the number outside by the front door here is 10745, not 543, but what do I know?