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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Oatmeal convert

I didn’t mean to double post today but I’m just so surprised at this revelation that I have to share.

For years and years, I’ve always thought the only good oatmeal was the kind that you ate in cookies or bars. Baked with lots of sugar, yum.

I’ve tried eating oatmeal for years (instant, non-instant, with dried fruit, with maple syrup, with brown sugar, with milk, and so on and so on), and every time I would shove it down reluctantly, repeating the mantra – “it’s good for me” until I was finished with the bowl.

Last month Serious Eats posted an article about Mark Bittman’s savoury oatmeal. It’s something I’ve kept in mind since, but since I really don’t like oatmeal I have been reluctant to try it. Well today, I finally did. Holy cow does it taste good with soy sauce! Why didn’t I think of this years earlier! Why didn’t my Chinese parents force feed me this before?!

You can click on the above link for specific instructions but basically you make your oatmeal like you regularly do, then add some light soy sauce and some green onions/scallions for garnish and a bit of crunch. The dish ends up tasting more like a brown rice jook (a.k.a. congee) than any oatmeal I’ve ever had before. (And by the way, I’m actually using a 5-cereal blend that includes oats, but now I think I’ll  a bag of steel-cut oats to my grocery list.)

Doing a quick Google search reveals that there are many other suggestions to make savoury oatmeal interesting. Adding a cooked egg, with the yolk dripping into your oatmeal, adding ginger and/or garlic to the water during the cooking process, using soup stock to cook the grains, making an oatmeal risotto… there are so many possibilities. I feel like yelling “Eureka!” as new world of breakfast has been opened to me. Excuse me, I think I’m going for a second helping.