By Sam Goodman
I hopped off the bus on the corner of West Olympic and Irolo and immediately I was entranced by the beautiful art displayed on the side of the building. With silhouettes of birds flying overtop portraits of various people, all surrounded by angel wings, guelaguetza is an authentic Mexican restaurant, famous for the mole. Well, what are you waiting for? Let's head in and taste test all that this 24 year staple has to offer.
Agua de Jamaica
Right after sitting down, we were served huge pitchers of hibiscus tea. At first, this ice cold beverage tasted like a mix of cranberry and pomegranate juice. You know, like a distinct fruity flavor with a mildly bitter aftertaste? But, after a couple of sips and a dash of lime, I really started to like it. Okay, yea, maybe I had 5 glasses, but that's none of your business. 5/5 stars.
Tortilla chips and mole
Guelaguetza is famous for their mole. So walking in, I had high expectations. This starter lived up to my expectations and more with its perfect blend of spices, herbs, and chocolate. Looking down our table, all of the dishes of mole and chips were empty so 5/5 stars!
A literal feast, one of these could serve 4 people. The best way to describe this is like a pizza. The sauce is a flavorful, salty black bean paste, which is what's on a traditional tlayuda, the mozzarella is queso fresco and a mound of oaxaca cheese, and the toppings are cabbage, all on top of a warmed, crispy tortilla. But, besides the bean paste, this dish lacked flavor. I recommend venturing our further into the menu before ordering this dish. 2/5 stars.
MOLCAJETE De Guacamole
Being a native Californian, I basically praise the avocado like a god on earth, and the same with my guac. For me, this recipe lacked flavor overall. Although there were tomatoes, cilantro, and onion mixed in, the only thing I could taste was an overwhelming amount of spice. 2/5 stars.
As opposed to the traditional tlayuda, the vegetation option topped with black bean paste, cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cacti, and mushrooms was fresh, flavorful, and felt like a healthy option. I would maybe order this dish again but, again, the portion is huge, so remember, sharing is caring. 4/5 stars.
PRO TIP: If you take some guac and spread it on a bit of this dish, it creates a great spicy flavor!
FLAN DE QUESO
Cream cheese infused flan? Girl what? Usually I really don't care for flan. I'm not a huge fan of the jello-like texture or the flavor. But, something about the flan de queso was honestly delicious. The drizzle on top also added a subtle sweet note. I could never finish a whole piece because of how rich it is so I recommend sharing with fellow flan lovers. 4/5 stars!
Not to be a debby downer but I was kind of underwhelmed by guelaguetza. I feel like everything I tried lacked flavor and the flare that I came to expect. The mole, their signature item, was great, but, overall, the food wasn't incredible. It was either too bland, or too spicy, or too salty. It was never quite right. Although I probably wouldn't go back or recommend it to friends, I'm glad I had the opportunity to try it out and see more of downtown. The best part of guelaguetza is the ambience with its beautiful art, bright colors, and floral decorations. 3/5 stars.