I had never thought I’d see this much red before Christmas. I had found a restaurant named Baja surprisingly close to my apartment, but located in a corner of town I had yet to cross. Walking toward the restaurant at about 7:15pm, I noticed nearby restaurants were busy and lively. But getting closer to Baja, and farther from Washington Street, it was getting quieter and calmer.
Upon arrival, I noticed the restaurant was quite large. On the side of entrance was a long bar, and at the end of the hall there were staff to seat waiting customers. There was an option of either eating inside, the other side of the restaurant parallel to the bar, or outside. It was a hot and humid day, so I decided to stick with indoors. As I was being seated, I looked around and saw interesting decorative pieces on the walls. But the most blaring, most unique aspect of the restaurant was the stark red lighting. The entire room was red, and everything, including the food, was difficult to see. It was awkward taking about twenty flash photos of my food that night.
The waitress came to take my order, and she was very friendly, checking up on me many times. While ordering, I realized most of the menu was in Spanish. Unfamiliar with most of the food names, I decided to pick something new as my main dish. I went with “flautas,” which is a pan-fried rolled corn tortilla with shrimp. I also ordered a cheese quesadilla as my appetizer, and a dessert called “sopapillas,” which I also had never tried before, a crisp tortilla pastry with cinnamon sugar and ice cream.
First, I was given chips and salsa before the food, and I have to say it was pretty good. Due to the poor lighting, I was depending on my taste buds to figure out what I was eating. I believe I tasted tomato, cilantro and some other flavors in salsa. But what made it really great was the size of the chunks. I’ve had salsa with big chunks in the past, and chunks that were barely chunks, because they were so crushed. Baja’s salsa was the perfect in between. Additionally, their chips weren’t salty, which I really appreciate. Following the starter came both my appetizer and entree – the waitress asked when I’d like each plate to come out.
First, I tried the quesadilla. MMM, was that cheese yummy and hot! The quesadillas also had servings of sour cream and guacamole on the side to dip. The chilled, creamy dips contrasted well with the hot, melty wrap. The choice of cheese, I believe Monterrey Jack, was the perfect choice for the quesadilla, giving a not too salty, not too overpowering flavor. With that being said, I also felt that I could easily recreate this dish myself, and for less $7. The flautas came next, served with a side of rice, and choice of black or refried beans. At first glance, it kind of reminded me of a taquito or spring roll. The outside was very crispy. and the inside contained cheese, tomato and shrimp. I was quite disappointed with this dish. The beans were pretty good, they were in a bit of a soupy liquid. The rice was average. The flautas themselves were crispy, but when you got to the inside, the shrimp did not taste very fresh. Perhaps it was overcooked, or just frozen shrimp reheated poorly. It was okay, but not worth the $17 I paid for this dish.
Following the main course, I decided, why not end the meal with dessert? And thankfully I did, because it definitely saved the night! It was a long wait for the sopapillas, but perhaps this was due to the increase in customers, or the preparation time for the dish. Nonetheless, it was worth the wait! I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but when I saw it, I could already imagine the taste. It looked crispy, sweet, and delicious. The taste was very familiar, maybe like a pastry of some sort? The sauce that topped the dessert tasted a bit like chocolate syrup. Pairing the ice cream with the sopapilla really took the dish from a 6 to a 10. Without the ice cream, the pastry may have been a bit too oily and bland, but the contrast in textures, flavor and temperature made the two a dynamic duo when eaten together.
Although I wasn’t satisfied with everything I sampled, I was glad to have ended it with something sweet.
Pro Tip: Skip dinner, go straight to dessert! I’m not sure how much lunch costs… perhaps the prices are more reasonable. But I didn’t feel as though, at least what I ordered, was worth what I payed.
Price Rating: $$
Appetizers- $4-12, Entrees-$14-$20, Dessert- all around $6
Basically, quite pricey… especially for what you get.
Location: 4/5 stars
104 14th St, Hoboken, NJ 07030 (10 min walk)
Service/Service Speed Rating: 3.5/5
First part of the meal, appetizer and entree, came out very quickly and together, as asked. The waitress was very friendly and nice. But the second half, dessert and check was very slow. A 10 minute wait turned into a 20 minute… for just the dessert.
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
I was pretty disappointed this week. If I had to compare Baja to Charritos for example, since they’re both around the same price point, I would go back to Charritos, but not Baja.