Friday, January 12, 2007

Taleo Mexican Grill - Irvine

There are no taco trucks in Irvine, because, well, they'd get ticketed the minute their front tires entered city limits. And that's too bad, because in my opinion, the best Mexican food is cheap, filling, and served inside the dingiest place possible.

But when you have a few dollars burning a hole in your wallet, and a free appetizer coupon courtesy of fellow blogger Christian of OC Mexican Restaurants, there's Taleo.

With a seal of approval from The Mexican himself (OC Weekly's Gustavo Arellano), Taleo has earned a reputation for successfully bringing Mexican food into a spacious, designer dining room complete with a wine list.

We started with Taleo's take on tuna on toast, dubbed Tuna Tostar ($10), which wasn't something you'd find at your neighborhood taco stand.

Four triangular planks of ciabatta toast was first slathered with a layer of creamed avocado, then adorned with glistening cubes of raw ahi spiked with soy and wasabi. The appetizer paid homage to Hawaiian poke, Japanese sashimi, and Mexican tostada -- a snack that would make a Paniolo proud.

Next was the main course of Mole Poblano ($14), named after the legendary sauce it featured. Culled from roasted peppers and seasoned with cocoa, this mole was the star of the dish, as it always is. But the delivery device was itself worthy of mention; a role performed by the roasted chicken breast.

Enormous in girth and moist down to the center, it was baked with a light crusting of spices. Chief among the aromatics: cloves. Its warmth enlivened the otherwise banal existence of the meat, but the mole was doing the heavy lifting.

And it was the mole that I savored.

The chocolate-colored sauce had the smooth consistency of hot fudge, and carried with it the sweet sting of poblano chiles. But there was only a few tablespoons of the stuff puddled beneath the giant slab of chicken. It was like a kiddie pool drawfed under the Rock of Gibraltar.

Once I sopped up the last drop, I still had half of the chicken to deal with. Thankfully, some table salsa helped to finish the job.

Our second main course of Tamales ($12) were two obese pillows of masa dough both crumbly and sweet, stuffed with shredded chicken. But most of the flavor came from a dousing of red sauce and a topping of crumbled cotija cheese.

While the dish was competent, it wasn't mind-blowing, and could've done better with more of that sauce, or even better: the mole.

In fact, had we not been stuffed, I would've insisted on a dessert of ice cream, drizzled with mole.

Taleo Mexican Grill
(949) 553-9002
3309 Michelson Dr
Irvine, CA 92612


At 3:54 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Gee, I get the impression you really like mole. :-p Can't blame you. It's good stuff. I would forget the chicken and have it plain in a bowl. But then I am weird.

At 8:16 AM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hey Elmo - Nice photos...I've come to really like aromatic!

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Kathy YL Chan said...

Gah...I think I'll go have myself a bowl of ice cream and mole now.
Oh but wait, I'm in Hawaii. Mole no exist here! Man, you make me envious! :)

At 11:09 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


What ever gave you the idea that I liked the mole? ;-) Why are they always so stingy with it though. I say forget the salsa with the chips. Bring out the mole instead.


I think I might start buying bottled mole.


HA! Well, you've got the warm weather there. We may have mole, but we're going to dip into the 20s tonight here in OC.

At 11:55 PM, Blogger ChristianZ said...

Elmo, you are one of only two people that used that coupon during the whole month of December. I don't even know who the other person was but the owner at Taleo told me only two people turned the coupon in. Fortunately several people have already clicked from your entry through to the coupon so hopefully some more people will use it now. I was afraid that maybe some people thought I just made up a coupon and that it wasn't even real but now you are vouching for me. Glad you liked it. The next time I go I'm going to try their bacon-wrapped scallops.

At 12:45 AM, Blogger Passionate Eater said...

You got the right attitude Elmo... Mole on anything (even in a mint julep or bloody mary) would make it a million times better!

At 8:39 AM, Blogger MessyJessy said...

I've never experienced the moh-lay until a couple months ago...I thought it was strange to combine sweet and spicy but after my first bite I became a believer and member of the moh-lay club - I can't get enough of the stuff!

At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why didn't you try the flan???

At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just the type of restaurant I would turn my nose up at as being an unauthentic rip-off, but I'm happy to see Taleo is getting the favorable reviews it seems to deserve.

Christian Z. deserves some mad props. And you, Mr. Monster, deserve some gracias for screening out some other great menu choices. The Tuna Tostar looks irresistible, and the roasted chicken coupled with the Mole Poblano looks mucho tasty.

At 12:03 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Thanks for posting that coupon!


You're so right. Mole on everything! To quote Austin Powers: "Mole mole mole mole mole."


Same here, tried it for the first time a few months ago. But eventhough I was expecting a sweeter sauce, the sauce I ate had more pepper and less chocolate, but I loved it. This one was more of a balance, it had a whisper of chocolate, just enough for me to know it's there. I loved both styles. And I want more.


Damn it! Why didn't I try the flan!? I guess I'll be printing out another copy of that coupon.

The Bill,

Peruvians have mole?! Where?! What?! How!?


I had my doubts too. Although it won't make anyone give up tacos at the local stand, Taleo's certainly a good option when you want Mexican and a nice place to bring a date.

At 4:15 AM, Blogger Melting Wok said...

The word guacamole just slip off my mind. You made that damn mole sound ridiculously good man :)

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Deb said...

Yum! I wish we had taco carts in Irvine, don't you?!

At 4:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are nice close ups of the food. I agree the best places are always served in the dingiest places.

At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great review, but where the heck is the Cheese Crisp.

I love mole, but I think I could convince you to abandon it for a Cheese Crisp. They are 10 times as addicting.

But, we have freedom to have both, so enjoy! :o)

At 6:30 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Delicious... although I think it's kinda expansive for Mexican food.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Melting Wok,

Thanks! It wasn't hard to make it sound good, cause, man, it was good.


I wish one could cart up my street right now!


This rule seems to also apply to Vietnamese food too. But no so much with Japanese food though.


I should lobby for Taleo to start serving cheese crisps since you Arizonans get to have all the fun...when they do, I'd like it with a side of mole please!


It is expensive. No doubt. But better than "On the Border", which actually, is so-so...just not worth the money. Generally, though, I shoot to spend no more than $5 for a Mexican meal...and even that is almost too much.


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