Café Ba Ba Reeba, Las Vegas

I needed a good place on the strip for a (relatively inexpensive) group dinner. A buffet would have been the easy choice, but I wanted something different. Armed with recommendations (thanks H. Peter!) and with a pre-purchased gift certificate from Restaurant.com that I picked up at a high discount, I made a reservation for Café Ba Ba Reeba and got ready to enjoy some Spanish tapas.

Café Ba Ba Reeba

Café Ba Ba Reeba

The restaurant is located inside Fashion Show Mall but confusingly, you cannot enter the restaurant through the mall. Their entrance faces Las Vegas Boulevard, and has a relatively large patio. The inside is split between the bar and restaurant seating.

I was the first one to arrive and right away ordered a half pitcher of black raspberry sangria. It was served with a generous amount of diced apples as well as lemon and orange peel. It wasn’t too sweet and it wasn’t too dry, but I did feel there could have been a stronger berry taste, as the majority of it came from some Skyy infusion raspberry vodka. Some actual raspberry juice might have boosted the drink another level. They had interesting looking peach sangrias being served at the next table; if I ever go back to Vegas anytime soon I may have to give that one a try.

I was cautious about ordering too much because I wasn’t sure how many people would be drinking. In hind sight, I wish I had ordered a full pitcher because five of us ended up drinking my poor tiny half pitcher. I probably should have insisted that they order their own and leave my sangria alone!

Black raspberry sangria

Black raspberry sangria

To whet our appetites, we were served slices of fresh bread with olive oil. Some balsamic vinegar did show up a little later, but I had already eaten my share of bread. The bread itself was decent, but not extraordinary.

bread and olive oil, sans balsamic vinegar

bread and olive oil, sans balsamic vinegar

As a group we decided to order a number of tapas dishes and a few servings of paella to share. We ordered:

Spanish meatballs (beef) with tomato sauce – slightly spicy and big, couldn’t see what was really Spanish about it though
Crispy calamari with tomato salsa – not bad, but not memorable
Seared sea scallops with raisins, couscous and pine nuts – probably one of the best of the entire meal, warmed all the way through but seared so fast that the insides were on the cusp of being raw, not for those who dislike sushi, everyone except for one person loved it and we ended up ordering an additional plate
Serrano, salchichon & chorizo sliced meats with manchego cheese (a.k.a. The House Plate, although it didn’t say that on the menu we had) – came with teeny tiny olives and small triangles of bread, was tasty but the quantity served probably wasn’t worth the price charged
Bacon-wrapped dates with an apple vinaigrette – was the other star dish of the night, a warm dish that was soft and salty and sweet all rolled into one, wasn’t to everyone’s taste but those who enjoyed it really loved the flavour
Roasted salmon – can’t remember what was on it, and the online menus aren’t identical to what we saw in the restaurant, tasted fine but wasn’t memorable
Seafood paella with gulf shrimp, sea scallops & green beans – served with generous amounts of seafood, a tiny bit too salty for some people, while wasn’t soggy it was almost the texture of a risotto and had no crispy bits that you would expect from the bottom of the pan
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Cactus Club Cafe, Edmonton

Some friends and I planned a dinner out on Saturday, April 25th, so I suggested we try out the newly opened (as in opened two days before on the 23rd) Cactus Club Cafe location over at West Edmonton Mall. Edmonton used to have a local location of this Western Canadian chain a long time ago, but it didn’t fare very well and closed relatively quickly.

Despite its brief stint in Edmonton, the Cactus Club Cafe has been around for many years. More recently in the past few years, much like how Earls and Moxie’s is also doing, the Cactus Club Cafe is working to make their menu, decor and atmosphere more sophisticated. When (Canadian celebrity chef and  Iron Chef America winner against Masaharu Morimoto) Chef Rob Feenie’s assocation ended with Vancouver’s Lumiere and Feenie restaurants, he later popped back into the public eye as the new “Food Concept Architect” for the Cactus Club Cafe. They’ve used his name to great advantage; his face is all over the website, he often talks to the media about the food at the Cactus Club Cafe, and all of his specific dishes are marked on the menus with a special RF logo.

As the restaurant had just opened, I half-expected service to be a bit slow but all of the staff were unfailingly attentive and helpful, and the food arrived quickly. (Other blogs and Chowhound discussions say that staff were flown in from Vancouver to ensure smooth service.)

The restaurant is located in a free-standing location in the northwest corner of the mall where a car repair shop used to be (Sears, I think). There is no entrance via the mall at all; an interesting decision that I hope doesn’t hurt them later when the tourists and locals stay inside the mall and don’t want to walk outside in bad weather.

The decor is modern but comfortable, with a mix of different textures and materials. Red leather seats, wood panelled walls and tables, glass, and even a concrete block wall gives the place an interesting look. The lights are dimmed somewhat so the red of the seats are muted. The booths are spacious, and art is featured on many of the walls (including some from Andy Warhol). A large patio was already set with lounge-style outdoor furniture, although at the time it was still too chilly for people to sit outside.

To start, a couple of people ordered bellinis and promptly declared them delicious. (Sorry, no photo. They stirred and slurped the drinks before I could take the camera out.)

We all shared a couple of appetizers. The first dish was an order of calamari, red pepper and jalapeño, dusted with fresh dill and served with chipotle aioli and tzatziki dips. The calamari was tender and the jalapeños gave the dish a lot of heat. (Lots and lots of heat.)

calamari

calamari

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