Cost: Around $25 per person
For most of this year our exams have been on Mondays. This means that you get a few extra days over the weekend to prepare, but at the same time it means that you seldom have a breath of fresh air before the next unit begins. Luckily at the end of our cardiovascular and respiratory unit we had a Friday exam. This meant some free time over the weekend, and my parents decided to come down to the city to take Lisa and I out to dinner. Everyone in my family is a pretty big fan of Lettuce Entertain You, and it seems that my parents always have gift cards to their restaurants. We decided to go right down the street from my apartment to Cafe Ba Ba Reeba.
Cafe Ba Ba Reeba is a pretty large restaurant with a variety of seating options. They've got a few party rooms, some larger tables, a bunch of bar seating, and in the summer a really great patio. We usually go to the early bird dinner on Sunday nights, but on any other night I'd suggest making a reservation. If the patio is open when you go, I suggest you request that seating.
Our server was very helpful, which is pretty important at any tapas restaurant. The menu is seemingly gigantic, and I definitely would have felt overwhelmed if it wasn't for his suggestions. Basically things are broken down by protein type. Items range anywhere from single bite tapas for $1.50 to large meat skewers for $18.50. The average item is around $7, and the paella is $12.
We started with the Spanish Cheese Platter, Goat Cheese in Marinara, and Spinach and Manchego Stuffed Mushrooms. The cheese platter was a nice start to the meal and came with some fruit spread and nuts. The Goat Cheese in Marinara was a tasty balance between the acidic tomatoes and the creamy cheese. The stuffed mushrooms dish was my favorite of the starters. These went fast and was probably because of the delicious manchego filling.
The Spanish Cheese Plate
The Goat Cheese and Marinara
The Manchego and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms
The next group of plates included the Lamb Stuffed Grape Leaves, the Garlic Shrimp, the Patatas Bravas, the Seared Salmon, and the Skewered Beef Tenderloin. The Patatas Bravas may have been a bit heavy on the spicy mayo, but once I pushed that aside it was as solid as I'd expect from any good tapas restaurant. I didn't try the shrimp, but my family members seemed more than happy. The salmon was done perfectly, served over heirloom potatoes, and topped with a spicy chimichurri. The Beef Tenderloin was a family favorite. It came with bruschetta, grilled vegetables, and potatoes. The meat had a nice exterior sear and was pleasantly medium rare on the inside. The grilled tomatoes and zucchini were a nice touch as well.
The Garlic Shrimp
The Lamb Stuffed Grape Leaves
The Patatas Bravas
The Seared Salmon
The Skewered Beef Tenderloin
For dessert we got the Caramelized Banana with Vanilla Ice Cream, the Mango Sorbet, and the Brown Butter Cake with Blueberries and Gelato. These were all fantastic, and each was only $3. I usually hate sorbet that comes out with a freezer burn style texture, but this was perfect. The banana had an exterior crunch from the caramel that went amazingly with the inside of the banana and the ice cream. The cake was lighter than I expected, and although the blueberries were probably frozen, they weren't mushy.
The Caramelized Banana with Ice Cream
The Mango Sorbet
The Brown Butter Cake
I don't think I'd call this the most authentic tapas experience, but I don't always expect that with Lettuce Entertain You. What I do expect from them is a slightly American and creative spin on an already interesting cuisine, and that's what they deliver at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba. I'm giving them 4.5 out of 5 Pearls.