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