gin general, Molé Restaurant is a new Mexican dining option at Kendall Yards, but specifically? It’s Oaxaca with some fusion dishes, offering diners a delicious learning curve if they’ve never experienced the cuisine of Mexico’s southernmost region, and a hearty return to the tastes of the region if they do. ‘did.
“I cook the same way my grandmother and my mother did,” says chef Fredy Martinez, who opened Molé with chef Tong Liu of nearby Umi Kitchen & Sushi Bar, where Martinez worked.
“What makes Oaxacan foods different is that our cuisines don’t just use seasonings, but lots of herbs,” he explains.
The avocado, for example, is ubiquitous in many parts of Mexico, and it appears on Molé’s menu in various forms: sliced on the house salad ($14), tossed with cilantro, lime and pepper. serrano in a dip for the fish and chips ($16), and mashed in guacamole for the carne asada plate ($25).
But Oaxacan food also uses the leaves of the avocado tree in dried and fresh form, Martinez explains. the barbacoa de borrego the lamb, for example, uses avocado leaves in the marinade ($25) for a hearty and tender stew.
The Molé restaurant introduces diners to many new terms and tastes such as guajillo chilies that add a smoky touch to aioli served with fried calamari ($13) or veggie tacos ($15). grass epazote defies description – its Nahuatl (Aztec) equivalent includes the word skunk – but it nevertheless helps to reduce the richness of the esquite callejeroa “street corn” dish combining corn on the cob, mayo and queso fresco, and sprinkled with very little but very powerful pequin chili flake ($11).
Another signature Oaxacan food is the molé, the restaurant’s namesake that is deeply rooted in Oaxacan history. It means “sauce” in Nahuatl, an ancient language related to the Aztecs. The restaurant’s decor channels an Oaxacan vibe with an aging two-story interior mural and jungle-like greenery on the walls and hanging from light fixtures.
The restaurant serves just two of many regional variations of mole, which is thick, rich and generally complex in both process and ingredients – a thin, dry biscuit called garret marias, for example, goes into molé mash to add sweetness and texture. The restaurant’s rojo, or red, mole served over pork ribs ($24) or chicken ($23) has roasted, smoked and spicy elements, while its negro, or black, mole features traditional chocolate for a gentle kiss.
The map is ambitious. In addition to a dozen house specialties, Molé serves tamales, tacos, tostadas, soups, salads, vegetarian plates, burritos, quesadillas and a dozen entrees.
And the menu is still not complete, explains Daniela Roller, reception manager. She notes that the addition of more conventional Mexican comfort foods like burritos, as well as an ease in lunch service, will arrive in 2022.
Meanwhile, some dishes evoke another culinary interest of Martinez: Asian cuisine. Prior to Umi, Martinez ran the kitchen at Ginger Asian Bistro and Wasabi, which is why the Molé restaurant is primarily Oaxacan, but not exclusively.
Salmon ennegrecido (blackened), for example, includes ingredients more likely to be found in Asian cuisine, such as ginger, yuzu sauce and tamari ($17). Don’t be surprised to see more fusion foods on Molé’s menu in the future.
Also in the future: live music and alfresco dining on the patio with pleasant views of the river, downtown Spokane and the peaceful valley any time of the year.
Restaurant Molé’s full bar offers even more smiles, including craft cocktails like the mezcalini ($10) with lime, cucumber, mint, and Cointreau or a grilled pineapple margarita ($11). ♦