Like most people, the first time I went to Babita Mexicuisine, I was a little surprised. The unassuming restaurant, once a house itself, sits on a low-lit corner of a residential street in San Gabriel. When you open the door, you find yourself in the middle of small square dining room with around 10 tables and wood-paneled walls clad in Elmer Dills plaques.
Babita’s lack of pretense is part of it’s charm. That, along with Chef Roberto Berrelleza’s Chiles en Nogada are what have kept me coming back for years. A relleno variation, Chiles en Nogada is a Pueblan dish that consists of a poblano chile stuffed with a sweet filling of tender slow-cooked shredded pork, pears, apples, peaches, raisins, dried bananas, cactus, almonds, pecans and walnuts. Though it looks heavy, the sauce is actually a light goat cheese cream. Pomegranate seeds are sprinkled on top.
Even those who think they prefer their rellenos savory will be surprised by how satisfying this sweet version is. The even-keeled goat cheese sauce maintains order, keeping any one flavor from becoming too intense while the nut textures add contrast to the soft filling. Pomegranates keep the whole thing sharp.
Babita’s Chiles en Nogada is only available when the special pomegranate used by Chef Berrelleza is in season, which is now. But even if you’re denied this dish, there are still plenty of worthy contenders on the menu. I like the Panuchos Yucatecos, tostadas topped with black beans, pollo piblil and pickled cabbage; the lamb shanks, which are slow baked and then steamed in beer to falling-off-the-bone effect; and the Enchiladas de Pollo in Mole drizzled with Cremamex.
Oh, and don’t miss out on the soup of the day.
1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776