Q’bole Mexican Restaurant and Cantina705 Goldlake Drive, No. 200
Folsom, CA 95630
I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, going out for Mexican food pretty much meant enchiladas oozing with orange cheese and crisp-shelled tacos filled with ground beef and shredded iceberg lettuce at a casual, leatherette-banquetted “family” restaurant filled with faux-Mexican objets d’art. The food was not very Mexican, but I retain a soft spot in my heart for that kind of Cal-Mex. In recent years, however, the definition of Mexican has expanded to include Oaxacan moles, Baja fish tacos and everything in between, from taco-truck finds to elegant upscale places. Even the casual mid-priced restaurants have expanded their range of offerings and boosted their authenticity ratings.
A case in point is Q’bole, a casual but hip Mexican place at the edge of the historic part of Folsom. It may be the heir to the kind of places I grew up with, in terms of its price point and appeal, but the resemblance pretty much ends there. At Q’bole, the walls are painted in saturated hues of raspberry, orange and royal blue. Huge flagstones in the floor, a stone fountain and appealing ceramic light fixtures add to the pleasant décor. I found the entrance a little confusing; the upstairs, where the main entrance is, is a bar, and it’s not immediately apparent that you go downstairs to the main dining room. With a baby in tow, we bypassed the spacious bar (and the 60-plus tequilas Q’bole claims to stock).
Once seated, I set about exploring the menu, which offers regional Mexican food with an emphasis on the cooking of Sinaloa. The “especialidades regionales” section of the menu, for instance, offers things like Mazatlan-style snapper sautéed with shrimp, mushrooms and poblano chilies; rellenos en nogada—poblano chilies stuffed with beef and topped with a walnut cream sauce; and a plate of carnitas Sinaloa.
For starters, we gravitated toward an appetizer platter, which gave us a taste of a majority of the “entremeses” menu. It was attractively presented and lavish. There were sopecitos, little corn-masa “boats” topped with chorizo-black bean and grilled-chicken toppings; and adorably fat little mini-tamales—one with chicken and one with pork. The pueblanitas turned out to be ultra-rich turnovers filled with melting cheese and rajas of poblano chili. There also was a whole poblano chili filled with cheese and topped with salsa.
I loved the spicy chorizo topping on the sopecito, which was nicely contrasted by cool sour cream and crumbled queso fresca, but the masa bases were a little chewy and dry, as was the grilled chicken. The tamales, however, were excellent, as were the pueblanitas, though I thought the rajas could have been roasted just a touch more. I loved the smooth, faintly tart, nutty, pale-green dipping sauce, which I think was based on pumpkin seeds. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was meant to accompany, but it was good with pretty much everything, including chips. The chopped pico-de-gallo-style salsa on the chili con queso was inevitably marred by out-of-season tomatoes. Happily, the peppery salsa that came with the excellent chips found a way around this problem by roasting the tomatoes.
My husband, for a main course, ordered the shrimp cocktail, which arrived in a glass globe that looked big enough to keep goldfish in. Inside, chunks of avocado, cucumber, tomato and onion floated in a cool tomato broth that proved spicier than it at first seemed. It could have used a few more of the sweet shrimp, both to balance the flavors and to live up to the name “shrimp cocktail.” Nevertheless, the whole thing was like a refreshing, hopped-up south-of-the-border version of gazpacho, and that’s a good thing.
I’ve moved on from tortillas stuffed with orange cheese, but I still like a good enchilada, so I was hesitating between the crab enchilada and the enchiladas verde. I asked the server for guidance, and he steered me, instead, to a house specialty: the mole enchilada with chicken. He was a little brusque about it, but his recommendation was solid. (All the servers were nice enough but not exactly warm, except for a busboy who waved and smiled at our baby and, unasked, brought her a special kid’s cup of water.) The mole was a little sweet, but it still had a nice earthy bite, and the chicken within was moist and tender. Plus, there was some gooey cheese (white, not orange) over the top, black beans on the side and vibrant cilantro rice as well.
Naptime—our daughter’s, not ours—was approaching as we finished our lunch, so we skipped dessert and headed for the exit. But we would happily go back, as much for our own sake as to make sure that a new generation doesn’t grow up thinking that Mexican food is confined to an orange-cheese enchilada.