Success can be as complex as a mole sauce, and with EK Valley now serving at a second location in Culver City, it can be every bit as satisfying. The original Arts District location on Washington Boulevard is still serving, and adding a second space on Sepulveda in Sunkist Park is a gift to lovers of real Mexican food.
While Mexican and Italian food have long been the two ethnic cuisines that America has embraced, the popularity has also driven quality down, and kept the nuances of regional cooking in the background. EK Valley serves Oaxacan food, and that means mole. This subtle, nuanced sauce is a staple of the cuisine, and with several delightful varieties available.
While EK Valley offers yellow (mole amarillo), red (mole poblano), and black (mole negro,) I keep coming back to the black. Mole is a sauce that takes dozens of ingredients and days to prepare, and the layers of flavors involved invite you to take the time to really savor every bite. For me, EK Valley’s black mole would make a paper plate taste great, but having it on something as pedestrian as a chicken burrito turns walking into dancing.
The salads are super fresh, with lots of sweet, crunchy vegetables, and both caesar with chicken and the caesar with salmon are as satisfying as morning sunshine, but at a place where long, slow cooking is the highlight, salad might just be a side.
The barbacoa, the carnitas, the carne asade, all have the flavor and texture of meat that has been well looked after for a very long time. With the low, slow heat that collapses collegen and suffuses spice through the dish, any of these choices make for a memorable meal.
While EK Valley does not offer alcohol, there are drinks here that you must try. Cucumber lemonade, horchata, and the often-sought and seldom-found Mexican coke are all pretty ideal ways to enjoy a drink that isn’t a ‘drink.’
While the restaurant scene in Culver City continues to draw international attention, having a homegown success like EK Valley is the best of all possible worlds.