The streets are quiet and relatively vacant on a Tuesday evening on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. But one peek into Mole and you’ll see where the locals have flocked. Nestled between 89th and 90th streets on Second Avenue, Mole’s new location is bursting with diners around the clock, feeding families, and large groups of friends, co-workers, and couples. This four-month-old restaurant has achieved a vibrant, downtown feel in one of the city’s most tranquil neighborhoods.
Husband and wife owners Nick Cervera and Guadalupe "Lupe" Elizalde have three other Mole locations in New York City, and since business is booming, they set up shop in this new locale. Mole is an authentic Mexican restaurant that serves up regional dishes, many of which originate from Elizalde's family recipes. Elizalde is the executive chef of Mole and her recipes are largely influenced by the bold, authentic Mexican flavors from her childhood in Mexico City.
The new Mole location is adorned with bright-yet-tasteful colors, and the dark wooden beams and tables give the dining room a rustic, comforting feel. At the front of the establishment is a full-service bar, stocked with more than 100 types of tequilas and mezcals, with attentive bartenders that shake up incredibly fresh margaritas.
For those pleasant summer nights, Mole offers outdoor seating for 20. Most of the action, however, is in the main dining room, where diners can listen to elegant Mexican tunes, watch their guacamole being made tableside, and indulge in flavorful food in a place that feels true to Mexico’s flair.
Though Mole has a casual dining atmosphere, the food is carefully styled and presented as beautifully as any modern, upscale establishment. The Daily Meal was invited to enjoy a meal at the restaurant during a press dinner.
The fresh corn soup is flavorful and creamy with bold spices and fresh corn kernels, topped with crispy tortilla strips and garnished with fresh cilantro. Another savory selection is the "crepas con huitacoche," a pair of soft crepes with black corn mushroom filling and a creamy poblano sauce that melt in your mouth and leave you begging for another order. Presented in a similar way, the "pollo en mole poblano" dish includes shredded chicken wrapped in a soft corn tortilla, covered in chef Elizalde's mother’s Mexican mole sauce. The authentic mole is a unique combination of rich, nutty, and spicy flavors, made with more than 40 ingredients that include chocolate, fruit, nuts, and dozens of spices.
Most Mexican restaurants have diners loosening their belts after an elaborate meal, but Mole-goers should try their best to save room for dessert. Elizalde's sister is the pastry chef at the restaurant and has successfully perfected the legendary tres leches cake, which is light and fresh, as well as the traditional Mexican flan.
Mole is certainly a step up from most casual New York City Mexican joints, and it brings a new energy to the streets of the Upper East Side. Prices are a little steep for certain dishes, but if you know the right plates to order, you will leave with a smile and a very full belly.