If turns out that molcajete is actually the name of the lava rock bowl itself, although many restaurants in the U.S. serve imitations of the dish my friend had in plastic bowls. Most of the renditions we've seen here since our return have been unimpressive enough for us to refer to them as sadness bowls.
About a month ago I saw a review in the Commercial Appeal for the recently-opened Bucanas Mexican Restaurant on Summer near Perkins. The part of the review that immediately grabbed my eye was where writer Jennifer Biggs mentioned that, "the star of the menu is the molcajete, a dish named for the big bowl in which it's served. While you've almost certainly seen the plastic version of the three-footed bowl holding salsa at other Mexican restaurants, this is a real molcajete, a bowl made of volcanic rock and traditionally used as a mortar and pestle in the preparation of Mexican cuisine."
Since Bucanas shares a parking lot with imported tool emporium Harbor Freight (AKA Hazard Fraught) I knew I'd have to make a stop there the next time I was out that way shopping for ultra-cheap, ultra-unreliable and shoddy tools. That opportunity came two Mondays ago, since the low Harbor Freight prices continually draw gearheads in even though we generally know better.
The molcajete lives up to all the expectations you'd have for a dish described on the menu as "chicken, steak and shrimp cooked with cactus, chorizo, cheese and onions in a very spicy sauce." At $14.99 it isn't cheap, but it comes with tortillas, rice beans and guacamole salad. I ate until I was full and ended up taking home enough food for a second meal.
The Wikipedia entry on molcajete mentions that "the molcajete stays hot for a very long time, and it is not unusual for a dish to still be bubbling a half hour after serving." I took this video after I'd already been looking at my bowl of food waiting for it to cool down enough to eat for about 10 minutes.
The dining area at Bucanas has a large dance floor and a stage loaded with instruments making it obvious that it turns into more of a dance club in the evening but during the day it is a quiet place to grab lunch. And there isn't much more I can say in a review since if reading the ingredients in the molcajete bowl and seeing a video of one bubbling away didn't make you crave one then I have already failed with this post.