One of the first courses during a tasting at Mesa last week was enmoladas, tortillas covered in mole with a little queso fresco on top.
“That’s a damn shame,” my date muttered.
“What do you mean?”
“This is better than my aunt’s,” he replied.
The mole at Mesa, the upscale, Vera Cruz-style Mexican restaurant that opened on Jefferson near Zang last week, is better than your aunt’s. It might even be better than your grandma’s. It’s made with 20 spices by Mesa co-owner Olga Reyes. And it is cooked perfectly, a little bit sweet and not too dark.
Mesa is the new concept from Olga and Raul Reyes, whose short-lived La Palapa Veracruzana was in the same space. This time, the Reyeses have help from Oak Cliff restaurateur Chris Zielke of Smoke and Bolsa. The space was remodeled, and the interior is similar to both Bolsa and Smoke — recycled wood, simple and chic with interesting details, such as little cacti emerging from holes in an exposed brick wall.
The menu is simple and chic as well, with no item over $17. We also liked the ceviche, lentil soup with pork rib, and arroz ala tumbada, a seafood stew with jasmine rice.
The most unusual menu item was tortuga enstofada, turtle soup. Being from the Ozarks, I have tasted many a varmint. But this was my first time with turtle. Raul assured us this is a “very famous” dish in Vera Cruz. I’ve never been to Vera Cruz, but the turtle soup was … not bad. Stewed with plantains, olives, capers, cinnamon and clove. This turtle soup and a couple of other dishes were heavy on hoja santa, which isn’t my favorite flavor. As southerners say, I just don’t have a taste for it.
But I will be back, and it will be difficult, and maybe impossible, not to order the mole, which also appears as an entree, every time.
Mesa also has $8 specialty cocktails, including one with house-made horchata and brandy infused with coconut and vanilla.