Mr. Monkey and I celebrated his birthday tonight at Babita (1823 San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel). From the outside, it looks like a shabby shack.
Babita is tiny. The front room seats about 30. It's so cozy and familiar that Chef Roberto Berrelleza himself comes out to tell you about the specials. He is colorful and passionate, and you can taste it in his food.
The chips and truly hot salsa were damn tasty and a harbinger of things to come.
We started with the fried macho bananas ($7.50) served with cremamex and balsamic reduction. Nummilicious!
The soup of the day was a duo of mushroom and creamy carrot with tequila ($7.95). Lovely flavors. I especially liked the carrot.
The swordfish special ($26.95) came on a bed of cauliflower puree infused with queso Oaxaca in a lightly fried egg-batter pocket, accompanied by an amazing mole with strong cinnamon notes. Pretty incredible stuff.
The chiles en nogada special ($24.95) wowed us even more. It's a chile relleno stuffed with pork, nuts, and fruit, topped with a rich cream sauce and beautiful pomegranate seeds that burst with delectable succulence in your mouth.
I'd never had anything like it. Really creative and palate-pleasing. If you have any desire to try this, pay a visit soon -- this special is only available from September to December (i.e., pomegranate season).
Even the fresh homemade tortillas impressed us.
Mr. Monkey was so pleased with his meal that he voted on his iPhone.
We hadn't even gotten Mr. Monkey's free birthday chocolate flan yet!
The flan was a smooth sweet ending, but it was the savory dishes that really excited us. Unless you're getting the dessert gratis, I advise you to save your tummy for sugar elsewhere.
Four thumbs up for Babita from the Monkeys. The food is interesting, fresh, and delicious, and the service is so personal that you feel like you're visiting relatives. This was definitely one of the best dining experiences I've had in the past few months, if not this whole year.