Moles y Mas (Cafe San Miguel)

8 Nov

Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a Mexican celebration honoring the deceased.  In honor of the occasion, a group of Dallas dining enthusiasts (including yours truly) headed to Cafe San Miguel for a little adventure.  Cafe San Miguel, well into the Henderson side of the Knox-Henderson area, is housed in a dimly lit, intimate space combining modern furnishings with warm central Mexican accents.  I started the evening with a pomerita at the bar decorated in traditional Mexican tiles:

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This frozen pomegranate margarita ($6.50), also available on the rocks for an additional $1.00,  is Cafe San Miguel’s signature drink.  The pomerita was pleasant but didn’t leave a lasting impression with muted pomegranate and lime flavors.  If the fruit juices are fresh, then I want to be able to taste the tart citrus.

Soon the rest of the group arrived and we were ushered to our table.  First up, a round of appetizers including guacamole (we ordered the large bowl for $8.95) and queso fundido ($8.95).

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The made-to-order guacamole had that distinct zing from the lime juice I was looking for in my pomerita.  In both the guacamole and the red salsa, the garlic flavor was stronger than one would expect but did not come off as unpleasant.  In fact, after a few bites, the garlickiness became addictive.  Good for my tastebuds, not so good for my breath.  The guacamole was served with small, hand made corn tortillas that had an elastic-like chewiness (from the thicker, somewhat uneven masa texture that results from hand crafting) absent from machine made tortillas.

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I had a bad experience ordering queso fundido in Tulum, Mexico while on vacation last year and feared the worst before this appetizer came out.  But my fears were completely unwarranted because Cafe San Miguel’s queso fundido, though rich in texture and flavor, didn’t at all resemble a pool of orange grease.

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Not a trace of orange grease in sight, partly because unlike traditional queso fundido made with chorizo, Cafe San Miguel’s version was meatless with queso asadera, wild mushrooms, poblano peppers, and onions baked inside a banana leaf.  Even without the chorizo, the queso fundido retained a strong smokey flavor (from the mushrooms?), creating a much welcomed lighter version of the classic.

A sample of a few dishes around the table:

Sopes Rellenos ($6.95):

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Technically an appetizer, these small masa boats filled with pastor (pork), shredded chicken, and picadillo (ground beef) provided an entree alternative for those with smaller appetites.  The sopes kept the tastebuds entertained with three varieties of fillings, though the shredded chicken was a little bland.

Enchiladas de Mole ($12.95):

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My entree of choice was a trio of shredded chicken enchiladas covered in earthy, traditional red mole atop a bed of garlic rice (strike three for my breath, I will be armed with curious strong mints on the next visit).  Don’t let the oversized plate in this photo fool you, the portion is more than plenty.  It looks like a busy dish, but the pronounced flavor of the mole penetrates every part.  The mole sauce itself was a little sweet for my preference, taking away some of the intensity of the ground cacao.

Cordoniz en Pipian:

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Cafe San Miguel might sell the pomerita as its signature drink and the reason to visit, but this dish would make a better sales pitch.  Grilled Texas quail covered in mole pipian, a pumpkin seed based sauce with distinct flavors of Ancho chile and cumin, won the best dish of the night award.  The sauce, nutty with raw bitterness (almost too bitter when consumed by itself), played perfect companion to the quail, bringing out a seductive smokiness that is exotic and intriguing.

We were stuffed, but the word “churro” from our waiter’s mouth when spouting off the dessert menu caught much curiosity and attention. 

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My exposure to churros, Mexican fried dough pastries (various versions exist in all Latin countries), has been limited to the long doughnut-like things (sometimes filled with fruit or vanilla cream) from local panaderias.  Though these cheap treats are pleasant when served with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, I’ve always been curious to what they would be like fresh and piping hot.  I imagine the sensation would be like the thrill of getting a fresh-out-of-the-fryer funnel cake at the fair.  Street food fantasies aside, Cafe San Miguel’s churros were of a different variety.  Crispy layers of fried pastry dough surrounded a cinnamon apple filling, all topping vanilla ice cream.  These churros were more familiar apple pie a la mode than exotic fried donut.  Still delicious, but not fantasy filling.

Service was generally attentive but slow at certain times, though we did have a large group.  Overall, I was impressed with my visit to Cafe San Miguel, where familiar favorites were prepared with quality touches and less common, signature dishes made lasting impressions.

Rating: 4 / 5

Cafe San Miguel
1907 N Henderson Ave
Dallas, TX 75206

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4 Responses to “Moles y Mas (Cafe San Miguel)”

  1. luniz 11/08/2007 at 5:39 pm #

    Yea I ate there last week. Had the ceviche (pretty good) and al pastor tacos (expensive but good). Seems pretty solid.

  2. michaela0416 11/08/2007 at 9:00 pm #

    Thanks for the detailed review, Donna. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Cafe San Miguel, but I’ve been meaning to go back for brunch which I’ve heard good things about.

  3. Hayley 11/09/2007 at 11:11 pm #

    Speaking of churros (heavenly), when it gets closer to Christmas you guys should go to a Spanish restaurant and see if they serve churros con chocolate. They are very popular in Spain (had them both times we were there). I think they are what you typically imagine when you think of churros. Like squeezing dough into a fryer through a pastry bag. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a breakfast thing.

  4. donnaaries 11/10/2007 at 1:45 am #

    Yes the lengthside ridges from the churros I’m thinking of are the squeezing dough into the fryer kind. Spanish churros are typically served with a chocolate dipping sauce whereas Mexican churros are rolled in cinnamon and sugar. I believe that is the primary difference. Fresh churros, Spanish or Mexican, are pretty difficult to find around here.

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