Washed in corn yellows and sunset reds and bleached white tablecloths, this new Geno Bahena mole spot nails South American puebla charm, complete with lofted ceilings that simulate a patio experience, and a VIP dining room commanding the entire space.
Bahena, largely praised for his work at Frontera Grill under executive chef Rick Bayless, has pretty much salvaged his high-class meets old-world Mexican cuisine of his now-closed venture, Ixcapuzalco, masterly combining ingredients for maximum "flavor, versatility and nutritional benefits," he explains. Take the "Avestruz en Chile Envinado," ($23) a Gunthrop ostrich cut, dressed in red wine and a Costa Rican gourd (chayote) stuffed with a corn delicacy known as "huitlacoche," which is ironically derived from a diseased ear of corn.
Though back to the mole: A delicious concoction of sauces and meats in its own right, this is where Bahena's style truly shines, as the chef offers all seven classic moles from the region of Oaxaca, each made from scratch and featured on its own respective night of the week. These are dishes built for flavor and aroma overload, as with Wednesday's "Manchamanteles," literally translated to "tablecloth stainer," stocked with chorizo, chile ancho, plaintains, pineapple, sweet potato and a trio of poultry, with chicken, duck and quail mixed about.
Expect large droves of BYOBers to take advantage of Real's liquor-license woes, as well as its fresh margarita deal; the kitchen squeezes and mixes to order, providing diners simply bring a bottle of tequila.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Gavin Paul