The Mexican state of Oaxaca has eight regional cuisines (it was seven until recently when the Sierra was split in half). But here in Oaxacalifornia, the only region represented in our local restaurants is the Valles Centrales. Not that I’m complaining—we are blessed with the best Oaxacan cuisine in the U.S.—but because L.A. is constantly coming through with new regional specialists, it’s okay to be a little greedy. The Isthmus region had been on my wish list ever since I visited some of the famous comida istmeña restaurants in Oaxaca like La Zandunga, La Teca, and the sublime cooking at Yu Ne Nisa. And now, it has finally arrived.
Lorenzo Bautista and his wife Ludy Peñafiel, both from Santa María Jalapa del Marqués, opened Folklore Istmeño in November of 2015 bringing the unique dishes and flavors of the Isthmus in their family recipes. This is the most exciting Oaxacan restaurant to open in a long time, and a rare opportunity to explore a broader range of Oaxacan cooking.
Enchiladas come filled with a savory picadillo of vegetables and ground meat that’s covered with a molito rojo, a red mol,e and tlayudas are doubled over instead of the usual open-faced variety. Order the tlayuda fried and you have their tostada Tere topped with your choice of Oaxacan meats like chorizo or carne enchilada on a spread of asiento (unrefined lard), refried black beans, Oaxacan cheese, and a medley of fresh vegetables.
Other Isthmus dishes include relleno de carne, a stew of beef, onions, capers, olives, raisins and almonds. There’s even pescado zandunga, an egg battered fish fillet served with a lime sauce, estofado de res (a traditional mole from Jalapa del Marqués) and an outstanding mole negro. The cuisine is traditional but Lorenzo and his wife add their own gourmet touches, as well as some recipes handed down from their familes—Oaxacalifornia just got a little more interesting.
Folklore Istmeño, 7302 Sepulveda Bl., Van Nuys, (818) 616-3291