When you think of the word "mole," your brain most likely translates that to "sauce." But the oversimplified association downplays everything a mole is or can be. Rarely easy to make, a good one requires hours of preparation, sometimes dozens of ingredients and an endless supply of patience. They speak to history and place. And that's exactly what you'll find at Autentica—moles that are molten affection you continue to ache for long after the plates have been cleared.
Chef Oswaldo Bibiano serves a version that pays tribute to Guerrero, his home state on Mexico's Pacific coast. To achieve the right balance, mole Autentica is painstakingly produced with more than 30 components, including nuts, bread, plantain, cinnamon and clove. You can taste the resulting dark chocolate and coffee flavors in a half-chicken ($27) simmered in the hickory-hued liquid. Or to sample two of Bibiano's moles, there's the platillo Mexicano ($20), which offers one enchilada rolled in verde and another in the restaurant's signature Autentica. Tucked between the two is a bonus chile relleno oozing with queso asadero.
It's easy to lose sight of the fact that Bibiano has been serving complex flavors in the cozy restaurant on Northeast 30th for 12 years. Even though he's gone on to launch the always-packed duo of Uno Mas taquerias, the heart of it all—what feels closest to a home-cooked meal thousands of miles away in southeast Mexico—is at Autentica. Each dish has a laudable vibrancy—even the typical starter of crispy tortillas ($7)—adios, chips—arrives with four salsas that veer from fresh and tangy to a rich, smoky tomato. The fish of the day (market price), steelhead on my visit, was flaky, bright and served atop long green beans crisscrossed on the plate like pickup sticks that were astonishingly sweet. It was a preparation of vegetable beaten only by a bowl of white corn ($10) doused in butter, crema and nutty manchego. In all, the menu is a coastline-to-mountain range tour of Bibiano's birthplace—one we've happily been able to enjoy for more than a decade.
Pro tip: Autentica offers specials every night it's open, from Taco Tuesday to $6 Margarita Sundays. Santo Domingo, indeed.