Mojito A-Go-Go

Downtown's newest Pan-Latin restaurant feels like a week In Cancun

Desserts were probably the most reliable Babalu strength. I predict the orange and coconut flan ($8.95) will start appearing on pin-up calendars near you soon. In it, a rich and eggy flan bore a festive little toupée of spiced orange peel, and the slight bitterness of the burnt orange kept the dish from being cloying. One night when I tried the pastel de limón, a concoction of potent lemon custard layered with buttery yellow cake and topped with a cream-cheese-based icing, I thought it was one of the desserts of the year. Oddly, though, a few days later it tasted stale and was very dry. But when it was good, it was stunning.

Desserts were noteworthy in price too, with many hitting nine bucks. Babalu seems to have taken an "if you can't beat 'em, head 'em off at the pass" approach to dessert sharing. But now that I think about it, it's that way at all the Parasole restaurants, from Manny's to Buca, so maybe this is just another perverse Minnesota habit that it's taken me a while to identify, like the way everyone around here seems to compare civic attributes like transportation or health care to those in northern European socialist democracies, like Sweden or Denmark, and not in oh, say, other American states.

Now that I'm rambling far afield, I guess I'll keep at it. I must confess that my one real quibble with Babalu is rather esoteric: While I feel like I sampled everything from their menu, and everything was highly competent, nothing was exquisite, nothing stirred my soul. In fact, I never really felt that the restaurant itself had a personality. To me, it mostly felt festive and efficient, not fun. That could be because whenever I was there the music was turned up to something way past decibels--kilobels? Hellabells? And particularly whenever prerecorded music with horns was played, it was like hearing needles scraped on plates. This is not relaxing.

However, I only even admit this because I am so sure Babalu will do great on its own, will delight people in need of destinations for birthday parties, sexy dates, hottie trolling, and all the other things that animate a city at night. So if you've got a cute new outfit and a $20 bill dedicated to a couple of cocktails burning a hole in your pocket, welcome to your next six months.

However, one favor: Won't you please leave Dexter home? She simply doesn't want to talk to him.

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