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A Taste of Mexico in Sacramento

How many times have you gone out for Mexican food and felt, “This is the same thing I’ve eaten a hundred times!”  Maybe the restaurant is not as clean as you would like, or the service is rather apathetic?  Finally, you do not have to worry about that again!  Mayahuel Tequila Museo is here and open for your enjoyment….and enjoy you will.  Ramiro Alarcon is the Executive Chef of Mayahuel and he is very clear that his cuisine is not the typical Mexican food of California or even of the Southwest; this is the cuisine of Mexico.  He strives to represent the different regions of his homeland, from Puebla to Jalisco to Sonora and more, Mayahuel is truly special.

When you enter, you are greeted with both a friendly smile and a cool logo right on the floor as you enter right on the corner of 12thand K Street in downtown Sacramento. Chips and salsa? can buy it, but Chef Ramiro wants to hold to the authentic tradition and so he welcomes you with a cortesia del Chef, what the French would call an amuse bouche, an opening bite courtesy of the chef.  The Chef was kind enough to allow us to taste many of his Platos Chicos (small plates) and they were full of flavor and I appreciated that they all tasted fresh.  I think that I found myself partial to the Bocaditos de Mexico due to the fact that the plate had 6 different bites and each bite was very unique.

I gave great thought to how I could convey in accurate terms that I truly enjoyed my experience but let me say this instead; in a group of 11 with me on Saturday, every last one of us walked out discussing when we will come back again.  We all know that you can’t get eleven people to agree on anything, but this time we did.  My entrée was the Mole Poblano con Pollo, a signature dish of Chef Ramiro and the mole has 32 ingredients that came together beautifully.  The chicken was tender, not oily and the sauce was very flavorful and a touch spicy.  My mother in law didn’t even add ketchup which in itself is a minor miracle!  What I judge by is obviously by my past experience with what I've tasted of 'Mexican' food.  So often, ‘Mexican’ food is greasy and can taste good but make you feel gross when you finish.  So between the Platos Chicos, Mole Poblano con Pollo and the Enchiladas Rojas (which I also tasted), I didn’t find anything to be greasy.  The food was hearty but did not feel overwhelming.  I would be remiss to not mention the rice which I know sounds so simple, but the rice was light and tender.  This also holds true for the Frijoles which are more than beans as they come packed with chorizo, bacon, Serrano peppers, tomatoes and come with chips or tortillas.  The beans were tender and had thoroughly absorbed the flavors that surrounded them.  They have a number of signature drinks and I chose the Mayahuel Fresco.  It was light and very refreshing, served on the rocks with Don Julio Blanco, Agave nectar, cucumber, mint and grapefruit juice….a perfect complement to the meal. In fact they have a number of other drinks that you may find intriguing, from roasted jalapeño margaritas to bell pepper and classics.

The meal came out fairly quickly, especially for a group of 11 but there was nothing fast about the preparation.  I was informed that they make their mole on a daily basis; a process that in itself takes 2 hours and then it simmers on the stove (aging if you will) and what is more, they make 4 different moles each day plus numerous other sauces.  Nothing was bland and my impression is that Chef Ramiro has worked hard to make sure the details are addressed and that all of his staff have passion and commitment…normally you would say that it’s hard to know what is going on behind the scenes, but I actually took a quick peek into the kitchen after the meal and the staff was moving quickly but not frantic, communicating but not yelling.  Most importantly to me, the kitchen was clean and orderly.

I will have to admit that it’s more a restaurant then a Tequila Museum though; they have a stylish bar and a captivating mural in the COA Room.  The drinks are great and they have some high end tequila, but don’t expect to see hundreds of bottles of tequila or embark on some type of tequila tour.  With that said their prices are very approachable and the food is prepared with care and is full of great flavor.  I found the atmosphere to be fun although some think that the noise level is too loud…that is a matter of personal preference.  It is certainly my recommendation that you give Mayahuel a visit.  Let me know what you think.

Restaurant Review by Torrence Crable

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