|Mexican restaurants in Mexico cover the gamut from prehistoric peasant cooking to world class sophistication. Yet despite the vast number of Mexican restaurants in Orange County, they fall into three basic camps: great grubbing at the low end of the scale; old school Gringo Mex smothered in greasy yellow cheese and red sauce; and Nuevo Gringo Mex, the sort of overpriced fare decorated with ancho or cilantro colored crema fresca spooged from a squirt bottle. Very few wade deeper beyond those familiar and overcrowded waters.|
Orange County Mexican food lovers deserve to fill some of the missing gaps in that spectrum, and the quietly lauded Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen leads the counterstrike with traditional, yet gussied up Mexican food.
How many places serve the Yucatecan bar snack panuchos, and a delicious version at that? This one's served with a pickled red onion relish supposedly spiked with habanero peppers that lacked any of that chile's distinctive flavor or heat. Those cebollas moradas added complexity to the terrific dish, but it forebode a tendency toward too much sweet and not enough heat in the three other antojitos I sampled on this first visit. If there's a gabacho compromise in the very likable food, this might be it.
Now let me puff up the churro maker's head a little. Its crisply fried, cinnamon sugared crust yields to an ever-so-slighly loose, custardy center. They're served with a not-too-sweet, dark chocolate sauce and a crackalicious, sweet-bitter burnt caramel sauce. The menu should simply say: "Sugar coated, deep fried, hot sex dunked in liquid crack." If you see some destitute addict hanging out at the back door in dessert withdrawls, that would be me.
Orange County craves sophisticated Mexican food without dumbed down flavor profiles, and the CIA trained Gabbi Parker might be our best hope yet. But please, Chef Gabbi, bring on the heat. Bring on the funk!
Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen
141 S. Glassell
Gabbi's occupies an unmarked storefront next an Army Navy store on the east side of Glassell.