Last night was the inaugural outing of a new monthly ethnic restaurant dinner group I helped to organize. It’s a continuation of a similar group I had in New York for about a year, where we’d go to exotic, off-the-beaten-path places, such as a Georgian restaurant, a Puerto Rican restaurant, and an Uighur restaurant, serving food from the native Uighur people of Mongolia and Central Asia.
For our first restaurant in the L.A. edition, I picked Babita, an innovative Mexican restaurant in San Gabriel. We ordered a bunch of dishes and shared everything. Our menu follows:
-Fried “macho” bananas
-Chiles stuffed with salmon and strawberry sauce
-Tequila and cilantro sorbet with ceviche
-Chiles en nogada special
-Sea bass with ink sauce special
-Chicken and shrimp “Elba”
My favorite — and the most popular around the table — was the chiles en nogada. This Mexican national dish, featured in “Like Water for Chocolate,” consisted of a pepper stuff with pork, dried fruit and pecans, and topped with a cream sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. I also particularly enjoyed the Elba, which had a dark gravy-type sauce, plus the cochinita pibil, and both desserts. I was also entertained by the quick wit and lengthy explanations of our waiter, who also happened to be the restaurant’s owner and chef, Roberto Berrelleza.