As we prepare for the launch of Longbeachize Restaurant Week, running Aug. 9 through Aug. 18 at over 30 restaurants spread across the city, we want to highlight businesses and restaurants we’ve partnered with for events that celebrate our culinary scene. For more information about Restaurant Week, click here.
Chef Susana Trilling—the Texas-born, Oaxaca-based chef who has become an ambassador for comida Oaxaqueña after leaving the U.S. for the southern Mexican state nearly three decades ago—asked Chef Luis Navarro of Lola’s and The Social List a very blunt question while they were traveling together in Spain: “Why don’t you buy my mole?”
Trilling’s mole—in which she mails the paste directly from Oaxaca in a five-gallon plastic tub along with instructions how to get it into its final form—is the stuff of culinary legend. Her recipe has been outright used by chefs ranging from Rick Bayless to Thomas Keller, the latter of which hired Trilling’s son, Kaelin Ulrich Trilling, as the chef de cuisine at Keller’s much lauded ode to the cuisine of Oaxaca, La Calenda (next to his most famous space, The French Laundry).
And that mole, using solely ingredients native to Oaxaca, is one of the reasons Trilling vacated Texas for the fertile land of Oaxaca: American chefs can try as they might to make traditional mole negro Oaxaqueño but the simple fact is that many of the ingredients—from the beautifully black pasilla mixe and earthy chilhuacle chile to the rare bi-color cacao beans—aren’t here or, if they are, aren’t as fresh or quality-centric.
This isn’t to talk about the ingredients: Her chile paste alone mixes five chiles—chilhuacle negro, dried guajillo, dried pasilla mixe, dired ancho negro, and died chipotle meco—while a seemingly plethora of other ingredients are combined separately (like a nut paste and bread-and-plantain mixture) before being met with one another: canela, almonds, pecans, raw peanuts, cloves, avocado leaves, peppercorn, sesame seeds, Oaxacan oregano, chocolate, tomatillos, tomatoes…
It’s a definitively geocentric dish—which explains why there’s that “It’s not quite like the version I had in Oaxaca”-ness to nearly every version of it outside of Mexico—and Navarro decided to take Trilling up on her offer.
Arriving in a five-gallon plastic tub, stamps all over it from its check-in points en route from Oaxaca to Long Beach, Lola’s is ready to let this deeply umber hued sauce hit the palates of our city’s denizens.
“I wanted to do something special for Restaurant Week and our patrons,” said Navarro. “The complexity of this mole is really unparalleled—I mean, I think we have a decent mole but this one…,” he trails off, laughing.
And he is right: Velvety smooth and outrageously complex, the sauce has notes that all hit at different times. A bit of heat there. A hint of bitter there. Sweet. Savory. Umami. Earthy. And Navarro let’s it shine with nothing more than a perfect medium rare filet, white buttery rice, and some pickled onions and tortillas.
“We’re excited to show this off for Restaurant Week, especially since it’s something we can’t normally offer,” Navarro said. “We hope people enjoy it as much as we do.”