Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Moles for Days at Guelaguetza in LA

When we told our friends we were going to Los Angeles and asked around for recommendations, one restaurant that kept coming up was Guelaguetza (3014 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006). Located on the edge of Koreatown in central LA, Guelaguetza is a long-running restaurant, founded by the Lopez family in 1994. Guelaguetza was named after the Oaxacan festival of the same name, and the cuisine of Oaxaca is on display. The moles at Guelaguetza, in particular, have gained a following over the years (you may even notice that their website is ilovemole.com), and in 2015 they even won a James Beard award. The restaurant’s unmissable orange exterior is decorated with murals on the outside and though its boxy exterior masks it – the inside of the restaurant is gigantic, with several large rooms, and it even houses a stage (with live music on most nights).

The menu at Guelaguetza is extensive, though the Oaxacan specialties seemed the most intriguing: as a mark of a real Oaxacan restaurant, you can get evem an order of chapulines (fried grasshoppers – $14.50) one of M’s favorites. Guelaguetza is also known for their tlayudas ($14.50) – large tortillas covered in re-fried beans and a variety of other toppings like mole, mushrooms, cactus, cheese and/or chorizo. Other Oaxacan dishes included goat barbacoa tacos ($14.50), Oaxacan-style tamales wrapped in banana leaves ($12.50) and a variety of preparations of tasajo (thin grilled sliced beef) and pork cecina (smoked and dried). While perusing the menu we decided to sample some drinks we had never seen before: horchata with prickly pear and agua de chilacayote. We had certainly have had horchata before (Mexican rice water with cinnamon) but the bright pink prickly pear added another element. The other drink tasted almost like a pumpkin spice late – chilacayote is actually squash – but this surprising drink was both refreshing and very sweet, thanks to the addition of the piloncillo sugar.

One thing we absolutely had to order was the mole – however we were a little overwhelmed at the options. We counted no less than 6 moles! When we sat down to the table, the first thing we were offered was a plate of chips with coloradito mole, giving us an idea of what was in store. The rusty red coloradito mole was rich, complex, salty, savory and sweet all at once (the secret ingredient to coloradito is plantain). We saw the The “Festival of Moles” sampler which served two ($29), and we figured that was our best way to sample the mole universe. The sampler included portions of four moles: Mole Negro, Mole Rojo, Mole Coloradito, Mole Estofado. Each little pot of mole was topped off with shredded chicken, was served with rice and (extra-large) handmade tortilla was there to sop up the sauce. The mole negro (aka mole Oaxaqueño), is the most complex mole, the darkest in color, and spiced with a hint of chocolate. This one was L’s favorite. The mole rojo, a slightly spicier, peppery sauce was M’s favorite, and far surpassed any version he had ever had in the states. The mole coloradito that we had sampled as an appetizer was just as delicious in entree portion. The most unusual mole was the briny estofado, which is made from olives. The salty, puckery taste was one we had never tried before – not even in Mexico.

We used every last bit of rice and the giant homemade tortilla to sop up the mole sauce – this was definitely some of the best mole we have ever had – both inside of Oaxaca and out. For dessert there was of course flan, but we were happy to also see nicuatole ($8.50) – a flan-esque pudding made with corn. We last tried nicuatole at our cooking class in Oaxaca – and it is great!  There is also a little shop in the front of the restaurant that sells Mexican jewelry, bags, molinillos, and most importantly, jars of official Guelaguetza mole and chocolate to take home. Sadly, we couldn’t bring the jars of mole home in our carry-ons, but we certainly will be ordering some soon. We were really impressed by the food at Guelaguetza, especially the mole, which will be really hard to beat!

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Koreatown LA: Chuncheon Dakgalbi [now Stone Grill]


koreaChuncheon Dakgalbi [Same location, now called Stone Grill]

703 S Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90005

Though we consider ourselves open-minded eater, we have not had good luck with Korean food, so we had kind of crossed it off of our list of “try-again” cuisines. Fortunately our fortunes have turned and we were introduced to some amazing Korean food on our Californian adventure. Our friend K lives in K-Town in LA, known to have some of the best Korean food anywhere, so we were excited to try one of her picks for Korean BBQ.


The sign outside the restaurant proclaimed “Chicken Kalbi” – in pink neon – which was a good sign for us since we love love places that specialize in a single dish. With this auspicious beginning we embarked on our chicken kalbi adventure. This restaurant itself was pretty trippy, and looked more like a nightclub. It has glossy black walls and, I kid you not, multicolored disco strobe lights. The music playing throughout the night was just as eclectic – a mix of K-Pop, Taylor Swift and Michael Buble (whatever!)

When we were greeted upon entry – the server proclaimed she needed to find the English menu – which, humorously enough, did not even contain any English. Our friendly English-speaking server was very helpful, walking us through the Kalbi process. We ordered 2 orders of the regular Kalbi and one order of the “fire chicken” especially for M, who is, as we know, a fire-breather. As is the tradition in most restaurants specializing in Kalbi, the dish was cooked in a giant hot plate right on the table in front of us. It also came with a small assortment of banchan (side dishes), including radish wraps, cole slaw and seaweed.

M proclaimed that the fire chicken was one of the best spicy dishes he had ever had (but of course it was not TOO spicy). The “regular” chicken kalbi was also stellar, and the sauce was a perfect mix of sweet and spice, and came cooked with scallions sweet potatoes and rice cakes. After the meal was (mostly) over – the ends of the kalbi were mixed into fried rice right in the hot plate by our server. After the meal was completely over we got a tiny cup of tangy frozen yogurt (a la red mango). We were definitely impressed with our meal, and were completely stuffed. With our LA experience we officially re-introduced Korean food into our cuisine rotation.

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