Luna de Noche Serves Cochinita Pibil in a Elegant Setting

By on June 1, 2012

Surprisingly good authentic Mexican food right where you’d least expect it. I’ve been conditioned to believe that the best Mexican dining can be found in humble taquerias which, while usually bright and cheery inside, could, without much of a stretch, be called dives — places where no one speaks a word of English and the walls are festooned with handwritten posters touting obscure yet delicious delicacies I’d never heard of or even dreamed existed. Now here I was in a huge brand-new mall at the back end of Owasso, right near Walgreen’s and a huge CVS drug store but untold miles from the nearest Mexican neighborhood, in an elegant wood-paneled dining room reading a classy menu bound in imitation leather, not a word of Spanish on it, and served by svelte blonde servers who didn’t know a word of Spanish between them. (Experienced, knowledgeable servers, I hasten to add.) And the food was great! And why not? Why shouldn’t you be able to find a good meal in a setting as lovely as this?

One look at the menu clued me in. Upscale, creative delicious-sounding entrees such as filet mignon with chipotle cream sauce and giant shrimp sauteed in wine crowded out the usual Tex-Mex suspects, though you can find tacos, fajitas, flautas and all the rest. I ordered “Cochinita Pibil” ($17). I’d heard about this dish for years but I’ve never found it in a restaurant until now. It comes from way south, in the Yucatan. A big chunk of pork (traditionally the whole pig but today more often shoulder or, as here, loin) is marinated in some sort of citrus juice (preferably Seville oranges) together with annatto and a bunch of other spices, such as cumin and cinnamon. Then it’s put in a sealed pan lined with banana leaves and slow-cooked for many hours. It’s a very famous dish and can inspire obsession. In Robert Rodriguez’ film “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”, charming psychopath Sheldon Sands (played by Johnny Depp) spends his time in Mexico (when he’s not busy murdering people) going from restaurant to restaurant searching for the perfect Cochinita Pibil. When he finds it, he kills the chef.

I’ve never had pibil before so I’m not one to judge but if Sheldon comes to town I think the Luna de Noche chef should wear a Kevlar vest. Just look at this lovely presentation.

And before I start thinking about the pork and forget everything else, let me say that the beans, slow-cooked with some sort of rich flavorful meat, were fantastic. Ditto the incredibly fluffy, delicious rice. Now lets zoom in on that banana-wrapped pork.

It was rich, juicy and impossibly tender: no knife needed here. It tingled with subtle, unforgettable flavors I’ve never tasted before. It was wonderful and I ate every bit, confident that my first pibil was indeed a worthy one.

Cathe got a steak Molcajete ($14).

Now this rich dish is traditionally served in a porous basalt stone pot, but our waitress told me that this violated local health regulations. (That pot can’t be cleaned.) So it came in an elegant bowl. Nice cut of steak, and the sauce too, while nowhere near as subtle as the pibil, still had a smooth spice-inflected flavor thanks to the tomatoes and chipotle peppers. Another winner. (Note: you can get this dish in the pot at Owasso’s El Fogon.)

And, just to prove that they do fine Tex-Mex too, our last plate was a lovely Chimichanga ($9).

I’m sure they have desserts. We were too stuffed to think about that. So we left to face the long long drive back to Tulsa. No one complained; the meal was worth the drive.

Luna de Noche
9500 N 129 E Av, Owasso (right near 96 Street exit of the Mingo Valley Expressway)
918-274-7012
Open daily for lunch and dinner
Menu: http://www.urbanspoon.com/u/menu/1677454

And here’s Johnny Depp in his epic pibil search.

And here’s the director of that film telling you about pibil.

Brian Schwartz:

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society.  www.theomegasociety.com

I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola.

“A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

Brian Schwartz

About Brian Schwartz

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola. “A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

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