Ofelia Martinez moved to the United States from her hometown of Tlacolula in 1989 with plans to eventually return home. 32 years later, she's still here and operating West LA’s popular Monte Albán. The secret behind her success and delicious food can be traced back to her wildly popular asiento and bean paste recipes. In fact, it was the packed lunches she would make for her husband that eventually grabbed people’s attention. After a few hungry (and likely envious) coworkers started to place orders for Ofelia’s cooking, the couple decided to try their luck in the food business. First came a food truck that was plagued by parking tickets, followed by the restaurant, and now flash forward to today where Ofelia continues to serve Oaxacan classics.
The tacos enchilados with black mole are the restaurant’s real claim to fame–the chicken is super tender and the black mole sauce is multilayered in flavor without being overly sweet or smoky. And Ofelia’s asiento and bean paste shine brilliantly in the restaurant’s tlayuda mixta, creating the perfect base for this hearty dish. The beans, while very decadent, come with a certain kick that pleasantly balances out the rich asiento’s chicharron.
These tortilla and chicken roll-ups aren’t quite enchiladas or taquitos. They exist somewhere in the middle with their soft corn tortillas, tender shredded chicken filling, and spoonfuls of red or black mole on top. We especially like the strong cacao and dried chile flavors in the mole negro.
This tlayuda owes its decades-long career to Monte Albán’s rich, pork-based asiento that lingers in the background of each bite. This mildly nutty fat is the first layer in this Oaxacan specialty, so you can’t really see it, but you know it’s there and working its magic. Like their great asiento, the bean paste is also very well-seasoned and the perfect foundation for the spicy cecina and tasajo beef.
This banana leaf-wrapped tamale comes out steaming hot, and its mole-infused masa is just the right amount of sweet. The chicken filling is good and brings some heartiness to the dish, but it’s definitely on the blander side and not the main focus here. Instead, the mole negro really shines and gives this tamal some spicy personality.