Monday, January 10, 2011

Mystifying mole

Posted By on Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 12:52 PM

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It's not every day I eat something in a restaurant so unpleasant that it provokes more mystification than outright revulsion. "How did you make this? What were you thinking as you put it on the plate? Would you expect your mother to eat this?" I want to ask.

That was my reaction to the chicken mole I tried to eat at Perla Taqueria, a new restaurant in the old Mrs. Winner's building at 1958 Piedmont Road. (That's a block or two north of Piedmont's intersection with Cheshire Bridge.) The dish consisted of two leg quarters, undercooked and stringy, beneath a muddy black sauce whose taste was bitter without relent. When one of the restaurant's very pleasant employees came by my table and asked what I thought, I said, "I'm amazed. Is this stuff made here?" He looked at me blankly and moved on. No, it wasn't a case of a language barrier.

I also ordered a cup of frijoles charros — not bad but way watery.

I decided I should return. And, indeed, the next day I had a better meal, the best of which was a tamale stuffed with shredded chicken breast and steamed in a corn leaf. The chicken was cooked in a red chile sauce and had a nice burn. I also ordered an al pastor taco. It wasn't real al pastor pork shaved from a rotisserie, but chunks of meat and pineapple. Not bad. Ditto for a barbacoa taco featuring brisket and a tomatillo sauce.

I'm not really sure what's going on here. Along with tongue, the menu includes tacos made with "buttermilk fried chicken" and barbecued brisket with slaw. I guess this is in the spirit of Taqueria del Sol. Desserts, except for an odd tres leches cake, had nothing in common with Mexico that I could discern. Comen red velvet cake en Mexico?

These people have had a hard time getting started. Just as they were ready to open a month ago, fire required they start over. I hate that Perla is so very...mystifying. But I'll go back until it gets good. I will however leave it to others to test the mole.

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