Monday, December 15, 2003

Not Frontera - It aint always perfect
Taqueria La Oaxaquena

With Frontera fresh in my mind, I looked forward to lunch at Not Frontera, in this case the now much closer to me, Taqueria La Oaxaquena. I specifically wanted to eat and compare their mole and their tamal.

Now, the very Oaxacan tamals here, steamed in neatly bow-tied banana leafs, have never had a huge following. Some people object to the chicken bones--hey authenticity. I like them, and I like the house brown mole. A three dimensional mole with distinct layers of fudgy brown, rust and yellow. No hiding the grease, I mean soul in this mole. The tamal pollo con mole should be very special. And it can be.

Here, however, Not Frontera shows its glaring weakness. My tamals came to me from a shvitz longer than any denizen of the Division Street Bathhouse could stand. The long steam leached out most of the corn succor and also nearly burnt the mole. I salvaged some of the lost moisture with a side of mole.

The risk of Not Frontera is that the best recipes are not always done right or there are compromises based on economic issues. I am sure they are not selling enough tamals to keep them at a proper temperature. Instead, they get blasted before serving. For all its shortcomings, I do not think Frontera would nearly ruin a dish.

I still love this place, especially the highly non-Oaxacan super tortas. I always kvetch them to add more Oaxacan style items to their menu. Complimentary nibbles of their stash of grasshoppers does not do it for me, although whenever I give my menu suggestions my wife is in the background saying, "Jerry you a bad man."

UPDATE: I was asked, given that La Oaxaquen's tamals have had mixed reviews, if I generally like them. Yes, they can be good and interesting. Just be aware of the bones.

Taqueria La Oaxaquena
6113 W. Diversey
Chicago, IL

No comments: