Cochinita pibil
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4346 Bonita Road, Bonita

“When I woke up this morning, I never thought I’d be enjoying live accordion music with my dinner tonight,” David said.

“Droplets running down a window,” I said, taking his hand. That’s something we say when circumstances and happenstance lead us to a destination to which we hadn’t planned on going, the way droplets of rain, bumping into other droplets, randomly change course as they trickle down the window pane.

Romantic red candle

Earlier that evening, when I hopped on the 5 south, David and I were headed downtown, just a few exits from our home, to try out Toast Enoteca & Cucina. But as we neared the 10th Street exit, and saw the snarled traffic, we realized a Padres game was about to start, which meant downtown would be a nightmare. So I just kept on driving south. All the way to Bonita.

Some good friends and fellow foodies had recently raved about Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro, which is on the way to my mother’s house, so I knew just how to get there. This was a Wednesday, which we were pleased to learn Romesco had dubbed Winedown Wednesday, offering 50% off all wine bottles.

On our table was the melted red wax remnants of countless candles, reminiscent of a small Italian restaurant in Brooklyn.

Albondigas in chipotle crema

Even though it was Pasta Night, and not Tapas Tuesday, we were most interested in the Spanish and Mexican style tapas. I had never seen so many tapas selections on a menu before. I counted more than 40. We began with albondigas al chipotle, best described on the menu as “beef meatballs in a mild bacon chipotle cream sauce.” These were steamy and sumptuous. We made good use of that sauce with the bread we were served.

In keeping with the tiny ball theme, next we ordered the croquetas romesco, little fried balls containing Serrano ham, cheddar cheese, and potato. These were served alongside the same flavorful chipotle crema that the meatballs had been bathed in.

Serrano ham, cheese, and potato croquettes

A big fan of slow-roasted pork, David had to order the cochinita pibil, which is roasted with spices and habanero. It wasn’t very spicy, considering the habanero, but it was rich and flavorful.

The fonduta (melted havarti and mozzarella) was something we ordered out of curiosity. We went with the fonduta con chorizo (Spanish chorizo, onion, garlic paprika, white wine). For all that flavor, it was fairly straightforward, especially compared to the complex ingredient combinations of everything else we sampled. Aware of the plates still to come and not enthused about the cheese, I limited my taste of it to one bite.

Fonduta — melted cheese with chorizo

The biggest flavor bomb came in the form of the cazuelita de gambas, shrimp swimming in garlic tomatillo salsa with fresh thyme and chili oil, all baked with feta cheese. After sharing the two or three pieces of shrimp, we boxed that amazing sauce to bring home, and enjoyed it immensely the following morning with scrambled eggs.

The most flavorful dish of the evening, shrimp in garlic tomatillo, baked with feta

David also got the bone marrow sope. The sope (basically fried corn dough) was dense and delicious, and though he prefers it when chefs slice the bone lengthwise, David said the cut didn't detract from his enjoying the flavors and textures of fresh habanero, chile de arbol sauce, beef glaze, and fried parsley.

Bone marrow sopes

We ended our meal on a salty-sweet note, with mouthwatering churros (crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside), served with dulce de leche, vanilla ice cream, and Ibarra Mexican hot chocolate.

Scrumptious churros

Throughout our meal, we were treated to live music. The musician, a man with an accordion, provided a whimsical Amélie-soundtrack feel to our evening. Dining at Romesco was a pleasant mid-week surprise, and those 40-plus tapas were listed on only one of three menu options, so we look forward to returning and doing some more exploring.

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