I have a short list of Mexican restaurants that can actually pull off any sort of edible mole in the Seattle area and currently that list has 3 items in it - La Carta de Oaxaca, Frida's and Todo Mexico. However, in Mexico just about every restaurant makes decent mole, some better than others but most good. In America you're lucky to have one in 20 that can make it well enough to get past the gag reflex so we have a great many people who say they don't like mole. Which of course throws me into the usual rage and I climb up on my soapbox to explain with my magaphone what they had wasn't mole to which they stick their fingers in their ears and say na na na until I'm done. I've had this conversation with a lot of food items, the most common being duck, lamb and escargot. Mole only misses the top 3 out of a lack of awareness of it's existance by the general populus. So back to my list of perveyors of good mole. You don't have to question me on the first - just go to Yelp and type in La Carta de Oaxaca which currently has 386 reviews which must be some sort of limit because it's had that for years. La Carta de Oaxaca makes the only great Mole Negro in the city. Frida's is less well known but makes a decent Mole Poblano. The last and the focus of this article is Todo Mexico in Lynnwood WA.
Todo should be on everyone's todo list. I'm sure it's pronounced "to-doe" and not "to do" but I digress.The very interesting think about Todo is that it has a section of the menu with foods from different regions of Mexico. If you've been to Mexico the odds that you've seen anything but sand is small so you may not realize that Mexico resembles Europe in it's cultural diversity. Pre-hispanic Mesoamerica had many competing civilizations with different languages and cultures. The Spanish were only partially successful in integrating these people so food in Veracruz doesn't resemble food in Mexico City which doesn't resemble food in Oaxaca and so on (and none of it resembles Mexican food where I live). There are many dishes you can only get in a certain region (chiles en nogado for example) so travelling to different regions is a must if you want to experience Mexican cuisine. The other interesting thing that has been pointed out to me recently is that the French created their wonderful style of cuisine about 150 years ago, the Italians a bit more than that and so on. The food that you eat in Mexico spans to the time of the Romans. You're eating 2000 years of history with Mexican food. You can't say that with any European culture. Italian tomato sauce, polenta, Belgian chocolate, Irish potatoes, squash filled ravioli, Hungarian paprika and so on all came from ingredients from Mexico so those countries could not have been making those foods for very long.
This section of the Todo Mexico menu is very interesting because you can get Yukatan style tacos el Pastor, Mole from Puebla and so on. You can take a little journey around Mexico in one restaurant which is genius in my opinion as long as the quality is good which it is. Back to the Mole. Todo makes a mole poblano that isn't too sweet and has a noticeable touch of cinnamon to it and I have to say that I'm always suprised at how well I like it. Having been to Oaxaca several times I've had quite a lot of Mole and considering the bad track record of U.S. based Mexican restaurants ability to make Mole I usually try to avoid it but I never regret ordering Mole Poblano from Todo. I highly recommend it.
The other plate I enjoy is the Todo Special (the name may be different but close, my memory fails me) that includes a very neat idea, take strips of chicken and wrap them in bacon and grill them. They also take prawns and wrap them in bacon and grill them. I think anything wrapped in bacon and grilled would be great. My general rule is that bacon added to anything usually improves it. Not sure I'm sold on baconaise though, hmm.
The other thing I'd like to mention is that the day when you have warm cozy restaurants seems to have faded. Restaurants these days seem to want high ceilings, little directional lights 12 inches above the table and jazz playing which gets drowned out by noisy conversations because of the horrible acoustics of 14 ft ceilings . The waiter will come by with his hair spiked and those ridiculous tiny square black rimmed glasses. Everyone wants to be trendy, nobody cares about comfort. Todo bucks that trend and has booths everywhere and even a fireplace. Look at the photo above and tell me that doesn't look like a wonderful place to bring your family and just sit back, relax, eat great food and spend time with those who you care about in front of the fire. It doesn't matter what you eat because the feel of the place is worth the visit. I wish for a return to this style of restaurant but I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. Even La Carta de Oaxaca leans heavily toward the trendy side with black and white photos adorning the walls and enough noise to make you feel like you're at a football game. Not saying you shouldn't go to La Carta de Oaxaca as you should but I yearn for the Todo style of restaurant more often then not and Todo delivers. The yelp reviews for Todo are a bit confusing, there are many people saying they really like it but only gave it 3 stars. There are also several people saying the service is slow. . Service slow in a Mexican restaurant? If you want fast go to Taco Bell. Mexico is about siestas and kicking back. The environment is good, the fire is roaring, have a margarita and relax, the waiter will be a round in a bit.