In a nondescript strip mall (aren’t they all) sits Monte Alban, a long time Westside Oaxacan favorite that serves up wonderful food amidst a homey atmosphere (besides the ridiculously uncomfortable chairs).
The Monster has been coming for years and is glad last year’s fire didn’t close the place for good. Given the clientele is nearly always Latin-American you can expect authentic food and pleasant service.
The chips are thick, crunchy affairs from which to sample the pleasing guacamole or the salsa which while more watery than The Monster prefers packs a punch of taste and heat.
The tortilla soup is bits of avocado, tortilla and cheese in a broth perfect for these chillier winter days. Add chicken for a heartier version.
But the reason The Monster comes here (and you should too) are not the always great clayudas or tamals but the rich, chocolaty mole negro.
Fall of the bone chicken swimming in this seductive sauce, mole is the crowning achievement of Oaxacan cooking and a wonderful version sings to the soul. A dish that can take more than a day to make and a lifetime to master, Monte Alban brings the goods.
Wrap the chicken in a tortilla, sprinkle in some rice and drench it in the mole (as the chicken can be a little dry). Given the lunch special mole is $6.99 how can you lose?
Why go? You hate losing.
Monster rating: 3½/5 Monsters
11927 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90025