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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

El Moctezuma

El Moctezuma #3
1740 W Chapman Ave
Orange, CA 92868
(714) 456-0080

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Bringing this entry back up to the top to remind everyone of Johnny Automatic's review and also because I added my own pictures of El Moctezuma's first location.

Moctezuma's Revenge

El Moctezuma #3 - Exterior
Heeeeere's Johnny from Orange slowly becoming our #1 guest reviewer with review #4, this time of El Moctezuma #3:

On my first visit I was a little overwhelmed by the menu and a number of regional specialties I had not encountered before (despite decades of devoted Mexican food eating). I ended up trying a Huarache con pollo. You may think of huaraches as sandals and in most of Mexico they are, but they also are an oblong slab of fried corn masa topped with refried beans, chile sauce, cheese and in this case moist grilled chicken breast meat. The lady running the front end gave me chips and salsa beforehand, the salsa being a warm cooked salsa that was very chunky. I added some of this salsa on top of the huarache. The salsa punched up the flavor on what was a mild, fresh and flavorful dish. But I liked it more with the kick of some salsa. They have agua frescas and horchata fresh each day. What's available seems to vary. I had the Jamaica or hibiscus flower agua fresca that day. In a previous review I called jamaica fruit punch. I was copying right off the menu there but hibiscus is really what jamaica is.

El Moctezuma #3 - Chips and Salsa
I went back a second time with a group of six. My friend Luis is a computer programmer who previously lived in Mexico City and is from the Sonora region of Mexico. I wanted his opinion on the food and that got others interested. Luis has also been looking for a restaurant that had food like he remembered in Mexico. He tells me it all tasted the same here and it doesn't taste like home. So I took that as a challenge.

El Moctezuma #3 - Taco
Once again the chips and salsa came but today's salsa was different than the last time. This was a traditional salsa verde with a nice kick to it. I ordered the Burrito with Tinga filling ($4.95). Tinga is shredded beef in a chipotle sauce. This along with tasaja, cecina and tlayudas were all items I had either never seen on a menu or overlooked. The burrito was a big rice and bean filled burrito with lots of chipotle sauced shredded beef. The chipotle flavor was obvious but the heat was not overpowering. Barry ordered the carnitas burrito and ended up taking half of his home. So they are big burritos.

El Moctezuma #3 - Tinga Burrito
Tinga Burrito
Kay and Cary both ordered chile rellenos and hard shell tacos. Hers was cheese filled, his filled with chicken. They said they were like no relleno they had previously had. The egg batter was thin and light and did not overpower the chile and its filling. Kay said her relleno was the best she had ever had and that she was very critical of chile relleno quality. Allan made up his own concoction of a chorizo, potato and tinga quesadilla which they were happy to oblige. Luis, who usually eats vegetarian wanted to try their mole. So he got rice and mole. The mole sauce was quite good this day. Very smooth, full-flavored yet mild. He also noticed that they had two specialty quesadillas available. They had flor de calabaza and cuitlacoche. These are the kind of regional specialties you usually only see at some place like Gabbi's. Flor de calabaza is zucchini flowers folded with cheese into the quesadilla. Cuitlacoche is a black fungus that grows on corn ears, destroying the ear of corn but producing something more valuable. Luis ordered these to round out his meal and I ordered a couple more for the table. This was my first chance to try cuitlacoche though I had read about it for the past few years. It has a unique sweet, woodsy, mushroomy flavor that is hard to describe. Especially given it was the first time I had eaten it. The flor de calabaza was very tasty and my favorite of the two. What a special treat and surprise to see these available on our visit. These along with the other quesadillas ran $3. They are not huge quesadillas like you sometimes see, just as big as their excellent homemade tortillas are. A basket of those fresh tortillas came with our meals.

El Moctezuma #3 - Food
(two orders of chile rellenos, a carnitas burrito and fresh tortillas)

El Moctezuma #3 - Rice and Mole Sauce
(mexican rice and lots of mole sauce)

El Moctezuma #3 - Quesadillas
(quesadilla flor de calabaza & quesadilla de coitlacoche)

El Moctezuma #3 - Coitlacoche Filling
(coitlacoche filling)
The agua fresca this day was an excellent melon (cantaloupe to be precise). Luis had the tamarindo.

El Moctezuma #3 - Aguas Frescas
We all enjoyed our meals very much. Luis said this was the best Mexican food he'd had in the States and was going to bring his family back the following day. I suggested, that unlike any place in memory, this food seemed like homemade food. It was like something I would get if I was invited over to a family's house for dinner. Luis agreed. Don't expect pretty decor or fancy presentation. This is home-style cooking in a funky thrift store environment. The food is the star here. I look forward to returning and learning about some of the other regional specialties I haven't tried yet. For the uniqueness of the offerings, the love apparent in the preparation, the memorable flavors and market fresh specials I give this place 4 1/2 Speedys. You can get the other half a Speedy down the street for about $20 more a person.

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales
Thanks, Johnny!

El Moctezuma #1
809 N Fairview St
Santa Ana, CA 92703
(714) 648-0402

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1 comment:

Roger said...

What a find! Coming across truly authentic restaurants is always a treat. Thanks for the post. I can't wait to head down here.