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Restaurants & Bars 8

dinner at Colibri Mexican Bistro

Windy | Jan 23, 200511:44 PM

Melanie, Ruth, and I had dinner at Colibri. It wouldn't have been my first choice, although I've been curious about the menu and am always looking for Mexican food resembling anything I've eaten in Mexico. (Also I found an extra $20 in a pocket this morning.)

Drinks were excellent; they also are not cheap. Many of the margaritas are $11-12, which I found hard to stomach. We ordered a house margarita (with fresh lime but no Cointreau), a Pisco sour, and a caipirinha, all $8 and delicious. A wide variety of high-end tequilas is available, including flights. You'd better have deep pockets.

The front room is dominated by the large and beautiful bar; I'm not sure I'd want to sit out there for dinner, though, especially on a busy night. There isn't really a waiting area, which was a problem on a freezing night, as we all huddled for warmth and contemplated icy cocktails. The larger back room where we sat was warm and inviting, with comfortable booths. Tables for two seemed a little small.

Service was friendly without being pushy. Three salsas were served with fresh tortillas. I wasn't impressed by any of them; no kick at all. Ruth thought the tortillas were a little cake-y. A side of guacamole costs $9! (Couldn't do it.)

We ordered four big plates, a bowl of pozole, and an antojito-sized plate of assorted sopes. To our surprise, everything came at the same time, filling the table and completely overwhelming us. It also meant half the food was cold by the time we got around to eating it.

The portions were not especially small, so I think the tapas business is a little overdone. At least three servers explained the small plates concept to us, as if it were a novelty. Maybe it's to get you to order more $12 drinks, although no one came back and encouraged us to. Or asked why half our food was left on the plate. Or even if we wanted dessert. Maybe they wanted the table. They have a DAT menu that doesn't seems like a good deal: $32 for mole poblano and flan?

Pozole was excellent, and I don't like pozole. Flavorful slightly peppery broth, perfectly fluffy hominy, a thoughtful arranged side plate of shredded lettuce, radishes, and onions. The bowl was rather small, but they did bring us two more bowls and spoons to share. We finished every bit, unlike virtually all the other dishes.

Pata en pipian, duck in ground pumpkin seed sauce, was decent. Breast slices were tender and flavorful. We left the leg behind.

Sopes were good, or at least they were interesting. There were three, one pork, another chicken, and a vegetable one, which was the best. They were tiny--miniature corn muffin tiny--which didn't make it any easier to share. The menu is short on non-starchy vegetables. Aside from a few salads, the only green options were a stir-fry of zucchini and a side of nopales, each $5-7.

The rest:
Mole poblano was a thick sauce on three pieces of dried-out chicken.

Carnitas were three cylinders of tasteless pork. Made me long for the $2 carnitas taco at Taco Loco, which is nearly as generous a portion and vastly superior.

Shrimp in tamarind "mole" had an overly sweet, gloppy sauce that worsened as it cooled. The best part was the corn muffin.

Mexican rice was nothing special. A couple of peas and carrots.

Doña Tomas, this was not. It was more like the old days at Guaymas; the food was never spectacular, but it was pleasant enough, on big pretty plates. Colibri felt like Mexican food with prices doubled and flavors dumbed down for Union Square tourists. I'd go back for happy hour if they'd get some chips, and someone else was buying, but that's about all.

So, we're a hard crowd to please. Total came to $120 including tip. We had fun anyway and then crashed the crab feed at the Elks Lodge. (Loved the boy scouts, but I'm still coughing from the cigarette smoke.)

Colibri Mexican "Bistro" is at 438 Geary across from ACT and the Curran. Valet parking next door at the Hotel Diva is $30(!).

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