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A taste of tradition: Molino de Flores offers classic Mexican dishes

Huaraches consist of a sandal-shaped corn tortilla with red chile sauce and chunks of marinated flank steak under a pile of shredded lettuce. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

Even in New Mexico, it’s hard to escape Americanized Mexican food. Mexican restaurants here often use ingredients such as beef, cheddar cheese and wheat flour not typically found in the cuisine of our neighbors to the south.

Molino de Flores, a new restaurant on Central near Tramway NE, takes Mexican food back to its roots. The menu includes burritos, but you’ll also find classic Mexican dishes less common in these parts, such as carne asada tampiqueña ($14.95), a grilled steak dish from central Mexico, and mole poblano ($11.75), chicken drumsticks and thighs cooked in a chile-chocolate-based sauce.

Molino de Flores – “windmill of flowers” in Spanish – opened last month amid the stretch of motels and RV parks on East Central between Juan Tabo and Tramway. The self-described Mexican scratch kitchen is appended to the lobby of the Mountain View Inn & RV Park. There are about a dozen tables inside and some big windows facing Central.

The host, efficient if not ebullient, took our order and served the food while a couple of guys manned the hot top in the back. Everything came out in about 10 minutes.

Things began promisingly, with a complimentary bowl of freshly made tortilla chips, light, crunchy and puffed up, most likely from letting the tortillas dry out before frying them. The salsa verde that came with the chips had a lot of kick.

Molino de Flores serves both breakfast and lunch six days a week. Huaraches ($9.75), a Mexico City street food staple made with a corn tortilla shaped like a sandal, highlight the breakfast menu. They’re similar to tostadas except that the corn tortillas underpinning them are thicker and denser. You can get them with eggs or carne asada. The latter version, served under a pile of shredded lettuce, combines tender chunks of marinated flank steak with a superb red chile sauce. The seasoned papas, or potatoes, cut into small chunks and fried to a crisp, make a perfect accompaniment. It’s an excellent dish, full of flavor and heat, that pairs well with a sweet, soothing glass of horchata ($2.50).

Molino de Flores’ version of enmoladas includes four rolled tortillas stuffed with shredded chicken and served in a bittersweet, spicy mole. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

Lunch items range from $10 to $15 and come with two sides. Enmoladas ($11.50), four rolled tortillas filled with shredded chicken, arrive in a pool of mole flanked by refried beans and rice pressed into a bowl and inverted on the plate. “Mole” is a term for a wide variety of sauces, but the one served here is the familiar dark brown version made from chiles and chocolate. It’s a complex sauce, at once bittersweet, spicy and smoky. Topped with queso blanco and sour cream, this had all the makings of a great dish, but it was underheated and the shredded chicken was too dry.

The green chile chicken enchiladas ($9.50) were plenty hot enough and had great flavor, despite a skimpy portion of sauce. Unfortunately, the dish was also compromised by dry chicken.

Molino de Flores offers a few desserts, including, of course, flan ($3.99), along with such specials as menudo and lamb barbacoa tacos that it promotes on its Facebook page.

Though it still has some kinks to work out, Molino de Flores is a worthy addition to the city’s restaurant scene that offers diners a chance to stray from their comfort zone and try some of Mexico’s foundational dishes.