CLIPPED WINGS

Flightly service offsets buzzworthy dishes at upscale Baldwin Park taqueria

News travels fast and bad news travels faster, or so it seemed after Colibrí opened its doors last summer. Friends I knew who had visited the restaurant came away with less-than-stellar accounts of this upscale taqueria, which didn’t come as much of a surprise considering Baldwin Park’s less-than-stellar restaurant rep. A trepidatious first visit I made with a group of people a few months back didn’t do anything to alter the perception either, as much of the food, and service, was mediocre. But on a recent visit, I was pleasantly surprised at the marked improvement of the food, so much so that it pretty much laid to rest any previous qualms and concerns I had with the kitchen’s proficiency.

The service, well, that’s another story. Looks did little to supplant the hostess’s apathetic disposition, and my waitress, though cheerful and lively, was woefully inexperienced in her knowledge of the menu and customer service skills. I’ll get into more detail, but first: sopa! A steaming cup of sopa de pollo ($3.50) made for a fulfilling start, the strands of shredded chicken breast and avocado chunks adding texture
to the broth. The sopes ($9), a trio of thick corn patties piled high with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and sour cream, were wonderfully fresh. Though the app was somewhat bland,
and the consistency of the corn cakes reminded me of wet cardboard, the strips of grilled steak and chicken were tender and moist.

Mains took awhile to arrive, particularly for a restaurant barely a quarter full, but for the most part, they were well-executed. A luscious chipotle pepper–cream sauce gave the camarones ($14) a near-infernal kick, but the smoky hints of the dried jalapeño weren’t lost on the plump, crunchy shrimp. I truly enjoyed the smooth, sesame-specked mole sauce slicked over chicken enchiladas ($10); the spicy notes therein seemed to be absent when I sampled the dish on my previous visit. An accompanying mound of poblano chili–seasoned rice also proved satisfying.

Seeing my waitress try to balance a weighty basalt mortar was a source of mild amusement, but when I noticed that the molcajete lacked an essential meat of the “molcajete Don Manuel” ($15), I was anything but amused. The dish is typically served with grilled chicken, flank steak and shrimp, but I asked for the chicken and beef only. What I got was just chicken and shrimp. Instead of taking it back, my waitress disappeared, then reappeared moments later with a plate of grilled steak, which she promptly scooped into the mortar. Nonetheless, the meats were cooked perfectly and the enveloping red sauce layered with Chihuahua cheese had a lovely zest to it. The dish comes with your choice of corn or flour tortillas, as well as black beans and rice, but I enjoyed it most with the poblano rice.

I was caught by surprise when said waitress handed me the check without even asking whether I wanted dessert. When I expressed my interest, she informed me that the kitchen was closed and laughed it off. Another waitress within eyesight of this exchange noticed the displeasure on my face and quickly interjected, offering me a choice of churros ($4.50) or pastel tres leches ($5.50). I opted for the latter and damn if it wasn’t the finest milky-sweet cake I’ve had.

“Colibrí” is Spanish for “hummingbird,” and given the flighty nature of some of the staff, it’s an apropos moniker. Yes, the nectarous victuals are deservingly buzzworthy, but you can’t blame me for flipping this bird.

comment

Tags