Today Ian and I went for the second time to a place that my brother recommended called Los Molcajetes (no website). This was our second time visiting this unassuming restaurant that is located on Eastern, a couple of miles north of the 95. The signature dishes are (not surprisingly) called 'los molcajetes', which is not so much a description of the food itself but the name of the vessel used to prepare and serve it, a Mexican mortar. Their use has been traced back to the Aztecs and Mayans who used them for crushing and grinding spices, but they are still common tools employed by Mexican cooks today. They function similarly to a cast iron skillet, becoming more seasoned with each use and imparting the cumulative flavors into the food. They also keep the food bubbling so you can eat at a leisurely pace as you continue to enjoy the food in its optimum state, nice and hot.
This is the only place I've had food prepared in this way, so unfortunately I can't make any comparisons, but I can say that it is very good and certainly worth the trip to a less desirable part of town. We have tried two different options, one with beef and one with chicken. The meat in both is of relatively high quality, but I agree with my brother's preference for the chicken ($12.99). The base of the dish is a flavorful and intensely colored red sauce that is laden with paprika (a little too much, perhaps), and is filled with your choice of meat or seafood as well as various other vegetable garnishes. These garnishes include nopales, or cactus (looks like a tongue coming out on the left hand side of the bowl pictured above), tomato, avocado, radishes, scallions, and a grilled jalapeno (watch out). There is also a wedge of lime, a cheese best described as Mexican feta, and a mini drink umbrella, which adds a whimsical touch. The chicken is roasted to tender perfection (see below), and tastes amazing on a warm flour tortilla. The broth has the right amount of heat, and is full of flavor, but Ian and I both agree that the meal could benefit from a few added elements. I liked the cheese, but it was fairly salty and dense for an already well-seasoned base. I think some crema, or Mexican sour cream, would have been the perfect antidote for the inherent flavors of the dish, and some rice, beans, and/or guacamole could have added to the texture. The meal was unique and tasted great, don't get me wrong, but got a tad boring to eat towards the end and need a little something to push it into the arena of "oh my god I have to come back and get this tomorrow." I noticed that you can order the molcajetes fajita style, however, so maybe I will try that next time and see what it comes with. I'll miss the little umbrella, but I've endured much more in the name of food.
Definitely try "Los Molcajetes" because it is a unique place in Vegas, the food is really tasty, and the price is right. One dish easily serves two, and with the purchase of 'molcajetes' you also get a free drink. We opted for Modelo Especial, a light Mexican beer that I strongly recommend (pictured below). For both of us the meal was less than $18 with two beers (we had to get an extra, of course), so it certainly fits the bill for the Frugal Foodie blog.
Tip: Los Molcajetes is open six days a week from 10 until 9, but closed on Wednesdays.
Today's Food Rating: 7.5
Would we go back? YES. I'D LIKE TO TRY THE FAJITA STYLE, AS WELL AS SOME OF THE OTHER DISHES ON THE MENU