Mi Cocina vs Carolina's Mexican Cuisine: Mole Melee

Like so many of the world's most famous dishes, the true origins of mole are shrouded by time. Is it, as many insist, from Puebla or did cooks in Oaxaca first concoct the spicy bitter chocolate sauce? Maybe it was created by nuns. Some say it resulted from a kitchen accident.

Hardly seems to matter, really. The quality of mole found here and now in Dallas restaurants seems far more important than point of origin.

And when a kind of family feud develops...Well, Carolina's Mexican Cuisine is hardly a spin-off from the Mi Cocina chain. Owner Carolina Galvan helped then husband Mico Rodriguez build the Mi Cocina empire and drew several M Crowd alumni to her side when he faded into oblivion and she announced plans for a string of new restaurants.

You would, therefore, expect some similarities in their mole. But when pitted against each other in a toque to toque duel...

The more established version--Mi Cocina's--is ruddy, almost rusty in color, on the slight side and of a single-minded purpose. It wants to bring heat and does so quite efficiently.

And that's pretty much all it delivers. Underneath the smoldering chili, notes of earthy, cinnamon-like spice and a modest sweetness appear placed to verify the mole's chocolate pedigree. There's almost none of the bitter taint one expects, and very little character other than medium heat.

Carolina's, on the other hand, glistens coffee-dark, with adobe-orange spots of chili-infused oil tracing on your fork. The rich color promises intense flavors--and the sauce comes through in an assault of gritty, earthy tones riding alongside a prominent bitter taste. Within this combination rises a well-crafted layer of heat.

They've put some effort into their mole, and it shows--especially in comparison to Mi Cocina's sauce. Carolina's lists two dishes with this mole, pollo and enchiladas. Mi Cocina offers the sauce only on one, the enchiladas.

So, a two to one advantage for the newcomer, at least in menu listings. As far as overall impression goes, if Mi Cocina scores, say, a 50, Carolina's would rack up at least 75--maybe 80.

That's a 25 point whuppin'.

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