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JUQUILA ~ West Los Angeles

11:26 AM PST on February 6, 2009

    Restaurante  Juquila ~ 11619  Santa Monica Blvd. West Los Angeles, CA 90025 ~ (310) 312-1079

    Juquila has been my spot for a long time. A loooong time. A long-duck-dong time! The food is great, but possibly secondary to why I love it. The vibe is pure community, it can feel like this neighborhood's hearth for the family, friends, cliques, posses, crews, and clans that call it a second-home. Breakfasts have always been a special time here, with sweetly spiced coffee, hearty, inexpensive egg plates (just $4.99), cantilevered-bosomed waitresses who enjoy my devotion, and tortilla chips and salsa at 9AM. I like lounging in Juquila so much, I even put off writing about it, for fear I would have to share it with others. I missed the episode of Sesame Street that promoted this virtue as a boy.

    Then, a short while ago, McConaughey-style, Juquila turned things up a notch. Horchata got a frozen strawberry, beers got a michelada-style rimjob, and the chips got a hearty skeeting of tasty mole Coloradito on top. Juquila (named for a famous sancitfied Virgin in the Oaxacan town of Juquila that draws many pilgrims) does a reliably excellent job on standards; mean tortas at lunch, superior tacos and crisp tlayudas bearing top-notch asada and pastor, and excellent rellenos, plus a whiteboard full of daily Oaxacan specialties which are all mouth-wateringly titled. Nopales, camarones, and supposedly (tho' I've never seen it) even chapulines grace this impressive menu of morphing wonders.

    When tacos and tortas are temporarily off my mind, it's the moles at Juquila that have me coming back and whipping my head around in ecstasy upon each bite.The mole negro is particularly sublime. It is difficult to describe its deep majesty without tripping my tongue over a series of synesthegic stumbles. Could this be what royal purple and gold would taste like if they were edible? Deep tones of dark chocolate and the texture of cream at first please the palette, morphing into a labyrinth of short bursts of sweet and rich chiles, raisins, cinnamon, all-spice and garlic, in a massive orgy of flavors that stand together as one.

    Unfortunately, the food at my beloved place, outside of Mexican standards, can be inconsistent from time to time; orgasmic one night, average another, but at least it's a sure sign that everything is made from scratch.

    chilaquiles

    On a recent night, however, the taste of chocolate overpowered the mole, making it sweet and not very subtle or complicated. One part of my chicken was tender and juicy, the other a little pink. I was disappointed and reminded, only weeks after a perfect meal there, that inconsistency is Juquila's biggest foe. That same night, my beautiful companion found the twisted top of a plastic bag in her otherwise phenomenal chilaquiles. A report to the kind owner saw him contrite, but without reparations to our bill or food.

    My only other criticism of Juquila is the white rice served with meals. Is this a Oaxacan thing? They do it at nearby Monte Alban as well. It's like having that smooth-talking Uncle Ben roll up and throw salt in my game.

    This is not to remove my endorsement of this fantastic restaurant. It is full of flavor and heart mostly unrivaled in the city's more inexpensive restaurants. Juquila is absolutely worth repeat visits. It also runs West L.A.'s best taco truck. Look for it on or around Stoner Ave. or Bundy after-hours, it is worth searching for.

    So, storm Juquila, dear TACO readers, and tank up on a gallon of mole while watching the futbol game or girls dancing in bikinis on the tube. It's best to linger leisurely, make friends with the gals, kick back over a paper, and generally refuse to leave at closing-time. It won't be too long before you feel like family, and then they have to put up with you!


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