The blog Effective Swearing in D.F. is a treasure of profane but useful expressions for use when in Mexico City, known in Mexico as El Districto Federal, or D.F. I knew that the word “mole” referred to the classic Mexican sauce, but the term “tu mero mole” was new to me. The website defines the idiom “(mi, tu, su) mero mole” thusly:
“The expression mi mero mole literally means ‘my very own mole.’ It is used to mean that some activity is precisely what I like the most or what I excel at, my area of expertise. It can also be used in reference to other people’s tastes or abilities.”
Tu Mero Mole is also the name of a 14-month-old Mexican restaurant in San Jose. The name is fitting, because cooking excellent, regional Mexican food is what they excel at and what I like the most.
Co-owner and chef Maria Flores is new to the restaurant business, but her husband, Ignacio Flores, isn’t. He’s also a co-owner of the excellent Andale restaurants in Los Gatos.
“Everybody’s had that,” she said. “I wanted to expose people to different dishes from Mexico.”
Tu Mero Mole was supposed to be just a catering business, but Maria Flores says the space looked so nice they decided to open a restaurant, too.
The restaurant sits just off Union Avenue on a side-street minimall between Cambrian Go Carts and the Nowhere Bar and Grill. Inside there are bright lime and terra cotta walls and only a half-dozen tables or so. And chances are those tables will be full, because word has gotten out about this little gem.
Tu Mero Mole goes beyond the typical taqueria fare and serves a menu of outstanding classics of regional Mexican food, the likes of which are in short supply at Silicon Valley restaurants.
Give the restaurant’s name, it made sense to go right for the mole poblano ($9), the velvety, melted-chocolate-looking sauce that’s one of Mexico’s most beloved and, in my opinion, misinterpreted sauces. While it is made with chocolate, the best versions aren’t overtly sweet but rather feature a complex balance of flavors that comes from blending as many as 30 or more ingredients.
Tu Mero Mole nails its mole. It’s pleasantly spicy and a little bitter with just a hint of sweetness. This excellent mole is served over a choice of white or dark meat chicken.
While chicken mole is fairly common north of the border, cochinita Yucateca ($9) isn’t. The banana-leaf-steamed pork shoulder gets its signature flavor and color from a marinade of achiote paste, chiles, orange juice, vinegar and lime. The pork is spoon tender, and the orange sauce is as lively and tingly as a battery top.
Rarer still is the cabrito al estilo los altos de Jalisco ($11), a mouthful that translates as roast goat from the mountains of Jalisco. If you like lamb, you’ll love this dish, a mild yet distinctive meat accented with a spicy sweet sauce.
As good as those dishes are, the tacos are not to be dismissed either. Made with freshly made tortillas no bigger than a beer coaster and just a little raw onion and cilantro, they provide a great way to sample a few of Tu Mero Mole’s delicious meats. Three tacos go for $9.
For something more substantial, the sopes ($7) are listed as an appetizer, but they make a meal on their own. Thick, biscuit-size cakes of fried masa are loaded with refried beans and chipotle-spiked braised chicken topped with queso fresco and sour cream.
And don’t miss the six salsas. The roasted chile and tomatillo salsa is flat-out delicious, as is the unconventional spicy peanut sauce.
Tu mero mole indeed.