Infiltrated by Mexican

Written by Linnea Covington on . Posted in Eat & Drink, Posts.

NICK CERVERA HOVERS around his Williamsburg Mexican restaurant like a proud parent, stopping at tables to show off what his baby has to offer. Though this marks his Brooklyn debut, Cervera isn’t a first-time dad—this borough’s new location is the fourth version of his popular restaurant, Mole.

One thing that has made Mole such a hit is their namesake sauce. Made by chef Guadalupe Elizalde’s mother in Mexico, the rich, cocoa-tinged mole gets flown in each week and used on dishes like the pollo en mole poblano ($21), a half-chicken coated in Mama Elizalde’s culinary masterpiece. Guadalupe Elizalde, who is married to Cervera, also provides a hefty dose of the mild sauce in the enchiladas de mole poblano ($21), which come three to a plate, stuffed with tender chunks of chicken under a light coating of melted white cheese.

Though Mole is known for this popular sauce, they also get kudos for their guacamole (small $11, large $16), made fresh right at the table. I prefer it super spicy, and the avocado master complied by adding a healthy pinch of raw jalapeño and an extra squeeze of lime to the tomato, cilantro and onion. It is mashed in a traditional molcajete (stone mortar and pestle) and served with housemade tortilla chips.

The guacamole is a good place to start, since a first glance at Elizalde’s five-page menu can be daunting. I also recommend snagging one of their basic, limey margaritas ($11), which have a little kick from the chili and salt-lined rim. Once you settle into the first round of nibbles, order the margarita de la casa ($13); with the addition of Gran Gala, an orange-based liquor, the drink rounds out a bit smoother and has that extra kick. Pair this with the tostada de tinga ($9), two crisp tortillas piled high with shredded, smoky pork and lettuce. Just don’t try to eat this as finger food—grab a knife and fork, slather on some of the spicy chipotle sauce you’re provided with and dig in.

A nice thing about Mexican cuisine is that an assemblage of starters easily makes a full meal. An order of the nachos ($10) is hearty and simple to eat, since each chip gets an individual cheese and bean treatment. The Mexican quesadillas ($10) pack a savory punch with Oaxacan cheese and your choice of meat or mushroom filling. Or, for the less adventurous diner, go for the basic quesadilla ($9), a crisp meld of cheese and mild pico de gallo.

Then there are tacos. Lots and lots and lots of tacos. The best are the Bajastyle fish tacos ($21), which come three golden-fried flounder-stuffed corn tortillas to a plate. We also like the tender, shredded beef-stuffed tacos suadero ($19) and tacos Americano ($14)—mostly because the hard, crispy tortilla shell and ground beef reminded us of taco night as a child at home.

Back to the margaritas. While the ones we had came out fresh and tasty, the smoky margarita ($13) lacked any real smoke despite the addition of mezcal, and the fresh fruit margarita ($12) didn’t taste a thing like passion fruit. You can, of course, skip the tequila (but really, why would you?) and go for a Mexican beer ($7–$8). However, don’t pass over the cochinita pibil ($21), a main course rich with red chilies and savory shards of pork. They serve this Yucatan dish with a side of pickled onions and black beans, all of which you combine in a hot blue corn tortilla for your own personal taco.

It’s nice to see that Cervera can maintain consistency throughout his restaurants—given how packed Mole in Williamsburg was early on a Tuesday night, it’s a business model customers flock to. He has also conveniently placed the joint in one of the new high rises in the neighborhood, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that most of his clientele lived there. Mind you, the food is good, but it’s not really a cuisine scarce in the area, given the already-established La Superior, Mesa Coyoacan and Viva Toro. But with a clean, sharp style inside and the safety of the trusted Mole name on the menu, this may be just the kind of place the new Williamsburg inhabitants want. 

>> MOLE 

178 Kent Ave. (betw. N 4th & N. 5th Sts.), 347-384-2300.