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Valentine's Report - San Gabriel Cafe, Bannockburn

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Valentine's Report - San Gabriel Cafe, Bannockburn

JoelF | Feb 14, 2004 08:41 PM

We'd been meaning to try San Gabriel Cafe (they're in the Entertainment book, for one), so I made a reservation for Valentine's day.

The menu is fancier than most mexican restaurants, although they do have a 'lighter' entree section featuring chiles rellenos, fajitas, gorditas and enchiladas -- your more typical mexican things. Similar to say, Don Juan's in Edison Park in terms of scale, but not as varied.

Chips and salsa were not great: the chips themselves were not much better than store-style, but grease-free. The salsa was good: good heat, but probably suffering from February-available tomatoes. A little lime juice would have pepped it up.

For starters, we split the Sopes plate. Four small sopes (about 2"), one each of chicken tinga, pork pibil, black beans and plaintain. All very tasty (although the plaintain was supposedly with mole sauce, none was evident). Tasty crumbled cheese on each. The pork and chicken are used in a number of their other entrees, so I'll be happy to go back for those.

For entrees, we both ordered specials of the day. She had the tenderloin, broiled with queso anejo, and surrounded by a creamy green herby sauce, and delicious black beans with zucchini. Awesome.

I had the seared corvino with fennel, which was very spicy and tasty. The corvino is a firm, white-fleshed fish (the waiter described it as between grouper and mahi-mahi) was presented as a thick slice, like salmon is often served, with a red sauce on top of it, and a green sauce below. As seared fish goes, it was rather raw. This was OK at the thin ends, but as I got closer to the center, it was really a big hunk o' raw fish. I asked them to cook it a bit more, and they brought out a whole new serving. This one was cooked through. Somewhere between might have been better, but it was delicious like this (and the leftovers will keep better). In its more-raw state, it had a texture like steak, this was closer to cooked salmon.

(The third special was lobster, which also sounded very good).

Deserts were flan (no caramel sauce, instead mango sauce with heart-shaped drops of raspberry sauce), and a chocolate tamale, served with the same sauce and vanilla ice cream. The tamal was basically a very rich chocolate cake baked in the corn husk. I don't think it was cornmeal based, but I could be wrong.

Altogether, an excellent meal, terrific service. Next time we'll try the table-side guacamole and maybe some of the 'lighter' items.

They've got a huge tequila list, including flights of tequila. Neither of us were up for alchohol today, though. A few wines by the glass, a moderate number by the bottle.

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