Goat barbeque at La Capilla

La Capilla is an open air restaurant in Zaachila, a 30 minute drive outside of Oaxaca City. My first visit there was over 12 years ago. Peacocks roamed the grounds then, dazzling diners with their display of iridescent feathers.
Today, La Capilla has expanded to become more of a theme park with a penned off area holding scads of peacocks and monkeys, a gift shop, an area for hammock-resting after comida, and a lot more seating. It is still open air but with a roof to keep away the harsh sun or rain.
Goat barbecoa is their specialty and I was invited to join a table of 40 other tourists to enjoy it on Christmas day 2005.
The open kitchen lines one length of the property, beginning with a section devoted to making giant tlayudas or tortillas , so common in Oaxaca. They are expertly laid on top of the wood-fired comals to cook and puff up.

They become appetizers while waiting for the barbecue pit to be un-earthed. Smeared with asiento (luscious leftovers of roasted bits and grease from making chicharron), and layered with chorizo, tomato, lettuce, avocado, fire-roasted chile de agua and mole rojo. We dove in like fiends, with shots of mescal to acccompany.

Our major fortification today lies buried beneath the cross of hot pink bouganvillas.
Smartly dressed waiters are in charge of this barbecue pit. Earth is swept away to reveal a metal lid on top of the 800 degree brick-lined oven. Here, two bottle of mezcal are removed. Warm from the oven, shots are poured all round while we watch today’s comida be pulled up from the pit.
Straw mats are then removed, immediately filling the air with the aroma of avocado leaves, an essential flavouring of the meat. The goat head is removed first, then the stomach stuffed with other organ meats and red chile. A large pot of consomme is removed, containing green beans, garbanzos, chile guajillo and pieces of liver. Large pieces of meat tied together with avocado leaves, like Christmas gifts, are pulled from the pit one by one.
The charred leaves are removed and containers of meat are eventually whisked away by the efficient staff to be plated up for our party.
The soup was served first. Intense, earthy and richly chillied. Served alongside more shots of mezcal this was a true restorative. Up there with a blood transfusion. The tender slow cooked goat meat was deeply flavourful, infused with red chile and the anise-like avocado leaves. It was plated up with a simple salad of lettuce, tomato and radish, some stewed black bean on the side and blood sausage. More mezcal.
The goat’s head was then presented to our host who divvied up the eyeballs and brain to the brave among the group.
More mezcal. We drifted off into conversations, some retired to the adjoining hammock area, others off to bother the caged wildlife.
The goat barbacoa at La Capilla is a sublime way to spend an afternoon. Bring a posse.


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