November 11, 2004
There are two tapas bars in town and one of 'em is so good it's squishin' the other one like a bug. Cafe Ba Ba Reeba is the one you should head to if you have a hankerin' for small plates of delicious food. The other will remain nameless, but I wish its cooks would grab a plate or two or ten at Ba-Ba-Reeba, and see what decent Spanish tapas taste like.
Usually I leave certain locally owned places alone. Chains are fair game, especially when they pull my chain, but Mom and Pops serving an inferior product don't get mentioned, if they're making a go of it. Don't pick on the little guy is my motto; and if their clientele can't tell the difference, I don't want to spoil anyone's fun or profit. My only exception to this self-imposed rule is when someplace is pretentious, expensive, and mediocre (or worse). Anyplace on the strip is fair game of course -since they're almost always pretentious AND expensive; and we all know there are certain, just-of-the-strip EXTREMELY PRETENTIOUS French and Italian places that I love to hate.
But I've laid off a certain just-off-the-strip Tapas restaurant because it's run by nice people who deserve to succeed. And even though I've had poorly spiced food, tired cheeses, in artfully sliced meat, and spotty service; I've kept my mouth shut. Now that Ba Ba Reeba has opened, there's something to compare it to, and in the spirit of constructive criticism, I hope the tapas-bar-with-no-name will chow down on some food there and get the hint.
What they'll find is excellent bread, fruity Spanish olive oil, well cured and sliced jambon Serrano, garlic shrimp that seem overpowering when brought to the table, but are mellow and addictive to eat. The spicy veggies and artichokes may be a bit oversized for some, but there's no denying their freshness and intriguing seasonings. One long short rib melts in your mouth, and my companions raved over the chicken and chorizo skewers (Spanish chorizo being more Slim-Jim-like than its Mexican cousin). The Caesar Salad and the sweet-scented chicken empanada are fine renditions of these classics and I loved the assortment of olives and the manchego cheeses with quince paste. The only complaint about the desserts was that they were tapas-sized-not Claim Jumper sized--that's how good the roasted bananas, lemony flan, and chocolate milk-soaked chocolate cake were. This is one place where everyone at the table will want to order their own dessert (or two), rather than the ritual one heart-attack-on-a-plate and four forks.
There's nothing wildly inventive about this food, but care and pride in the kitchen is a must. Small plate restaurants seem to be capturing the Zeitgeist of the way we're now starting to eat.....and I'd love, LOVE to have two places to go when I need a Spanish-food fix.
Cafe Ba Ba Reeba - Fashion Show Mall
See discussion rules
|Nov 24, 2010 | Thanksgiving 2010 - Another Beanie Reveal|
John Curtas delves into family history to discover the real story behind Grandma Schroader's Sour Beans.
|Nov 19, 2009 | Valentino -- You don't know the truffles I've seen|
According to Food Critic John Curtas, no other Italian restaurant in Las Vegas has performed at such a high level for so long.
|Oct 1, 2009 | Blow It Up|
In at least one part of town, our dining critic John Curtas says the food used to be a lot better.
|Sep 25, 2009 | Social Media Meltdown|
For our dining critic, John Curtas, social media has started to intrude on dining out.
|Sep 2, 2009 | Discovering LOS ANTOJOS|
Our dining critic John Curtas finds a new affordable favorite.
|Aug 20, 2009 | Chinois R.I.P.|
For John Curtas the recent closing of Wolfgang Puck's first Las Vegas restaurant brings back memories.
|Aug 3, 2009 | Food, Inc.|
John Curtas turns movie reviewer today - but the subject is in his usual area of expertise. Hear his review of "Food, Inc."
|Jul 16, 2009 | The Steak That Saved Las Vegas|
Dining critic John Curtas finds some steak aged for EIGHT MONTHS and he tells us how it tastes.
|Jul 2, 2009 | Bang for Your Buck|
Everyone's food budget is tighter these days. But if you still want to dine out now and then, our dining critic John Curtas has a few tips on restaurants now giving you more bang for your buck.
|Jun 19, 2009 | Whassup with Wazuzu|
Explore Dining Critic John Curtas' love/hate relationship with Wazuzu. If you want to spice up your dinner go for at least a "4 or 5."
|Jun 12, 2009 | Two Farmer's Markets|
Fresh, locally produced food has become a big trend across the U.S. Our food critic, John Curtas, says there's more of this trend in Las
Vegas than you might think.
|Jun 4, 2009 | MandM Soul Food|
John Curtas tells us about one of his favorite dining spots - a surpsingly affordable one.
|May 28, 2009 | Checkpoint Charlie|
While fine dining has seen a downturn in Las Vegas in recent months, our dining critic John Curtas says at least one dining legend intends to stay put. Charlie Trotter is standing pat in Las Vegas. John Curtas reviews Resturant Charlie.
|May 8, 2009 | Food Festival Frenzy!|
It's a time of many food festivals in Las Vegas. John Curtas has an overview.
|May 5, 2009 | Peppermill Coffee Shop and Fireside Lounge|
A landmark Las Vegas restaurant gets a visit from John Curtas. He takes you to the Peppermill.
|Apr 23, 2009 | Thai Me Up Thai Me Down|
Thai cuisine is starting to show up in more places in Las Vegas. John Curtas has some recommendations
|Apr 9, 2009 | A Gourmet Corner - In Spring Valley?|
Food Critic John Curtas takes a trip to the strangest gourmet corner in town.
|Apr 2, 2009 | Pip's is a Pip|
If you're looking for good dining near Aliante, our dining critic, John Curtas, has found a new place to go.
|Mar 26, 2009 | Stripped to Its Bare Essentials|
Dining on steak at Planet Hollywood! John Curtas takes you along.
|Mar 19, 2009 | Hachi is absolutely amazing!|
John Curtas has a find - a Japanese-fusion restaurant on the
west edge of the city.