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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Cod and tomato chowder

Cod and tomato chowder

Cod and tomato chowder

I’m inherently lazy, and soups are just so easy to make that I can’t seem to stop.

This was dinner last night – hearty vegetables and a great flavoured soup made this a healthy and satisfying meal.

This recipe is from Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy Appetite cookbook. All the recipes in there look fantastic; my only criticism of it so far is the way the graphic designer laid out the recipes. Each paragraph starts off with a part of the sentence in bold, large and coloured font, and my eye kept skipping over it as if it was a sub-head. It’s easy to miss important instructions that way, like when to add the tomatoes. Took me three times to read the recipe before I realized my missing tomatoes was written in that fancy coloured text.
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Tambun biscuits (tau sah peah) – Him Heang, Malaysia

tambun biscuit (tau sah peah)

Tambun biscuits, or tau sah peah, are round little cookies stuffed with green beans (a.k.a. mung beans). Flaky, dry, a little salty and savoury, they are a popular snack and boxes are often given as gifts. The ingredients of tambun biscuits are actually quite simple: wheat flour, green beans, fried shallot, vegetable oil and salt.

My grandmother insisted that we had to stop at Him Heang, a local bakery famous for these cookies. The place was packed and boxes were flying off the shelves. I think we only managed to get some because my grandmother, this persistent (and stubborn) little old lady, shoved her way to the front counter and shouted her order to the staff there.

Frankly, I was disappointed once I bit into them. They were so dry that you had to eat them with a drink handy. Although they weren’t greasy, I did find there was a bit of a greasy aftertaste – perhaps from the vegetable oil used? Also, the beans didn’t taste very strong at all and made me wonder why they even bothered to add the beans.

I ended up lugging two boxes of these with me onto the next leg of my trip – Hong Kong – and gave them away to people there, because no one else in my family wanted to take them back to Canada.

inside view of a tambun biscuit (tau sah peah)

inside view of a tambun biscuit (tau sah peah)

Him Heang Sdn. Bhd.
162-A Jalan Burma,
10050 Penang,
Malaysia

Chinese New Year – part 3

The second recipe that I tried from Fuchsia Dunlop‘s Land of Plenty, was a green bean dish. This doesn’t necessarily have any specific meaning for Chinese New Year, but I thought it would be an interesting one to try. The fresh green beans at the grocery store were unfortunately in horrible shape, and I had been so frustrated by the crowd at T&T on Friday that I didn’t end up buying any vegetables from there, so instead I ended up using some frozen green and yellow bean mix that I had lurking in my freezer.

Haricots verts in ginger sauce

Haricots verts in ginger sauce

The taste was much lighter and cleaner than the lettuce, and I think I preferred this dish over the previous one. I did screw up a couple of times on this simple recipe. Unfortunately my knife skills suck (I probably need to take a cooking class at NAIT), and I did not slice the ginger finely enough. I also really overdid it with the amount of ginger. Whoops. I think if you wanted to, you probably could even reduce the amount of ginger listed in the recipe as the raw ginger taste is pretty strong.

One change I made to the recipe was that I doubled the amount of vinegar so that all the beans were nicely coated and had a bit of tang to them. I would also recommend making the sauce a little earlier and letting the ginger soak in the liquid for a little bit, so I moved the order of the directions. Continue reading