A friend of mine did some PR for Union Square's Casa B for their grand opening, so I actually knew about the place before they even opened their doors. As photos of the restaurant went public along with menu items, I was committed to getting across the river to check it out.
A few weeks ago on the Sunday before July 4th, I went with two friends for our inaugural visit. One of the best things about Casa B's location in Union Square in Somerville is that it has a parking lot right out front. I used to drive home through Union Square every day when I lived in Inman Square and I never noticed that parking lot!
You'll spot Casa B by its white awning and electric green front door.
When you first walk in, there are two high top tables right in the front window, open to the street. A prime people watching spot!
Beyond the entryway there is a row of white tables along the restaurant's left wall. They are beneath a collection of white framed mirrors and white paper lanterns. Are you sensing a color scheme here?
On the right wall there is a dark wood counter with a white, wooden stools. This seems like the best spot to eat solo or with one other person.
When we first walked in the hostess asked us if we'd like to sit upstairs or downstairs. Before arriving that night I knew I wanted to sit in the room with the wall of plants. Don't know what I'm referring to? Feast your eyes on this:
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the entire back wall of the downstairs dining room is alive and growing! It feels like you are sitting inside a terrarium.
We took a table right in front of the greenery and across from us there was a giant wine rack that served as a divider between the dining room and the lounge area. There were also wine racks built into the walls.
My favorite part of the downstairs dining room was the bar, which had warm gray, tufted chairs. Some of the seats were for one, but other chairs were built for two! When have you ever seen a bar stool that seats two?
At our table we immediately noticed the teeny tiny silverware at each setting. Since tapas are small plates, why not have small silverware?
As we started looking over the menu I was pleasantly surprised to notice an entire page of vegetarian tapas! Bonus!
We were having a tough time deciding on our tapas, but we had no difficulty choosing our drinks! I decided on the rose Malbec which came in a short, stemless glass with a small carafe of the full serving.
The ladies ordered the sangria which was actually made with the rose Malbec. It was garnished with a slice of orange.
To start we were delivered a complimentary paper bag of plantain chips, served with a creamy tarragon dip. I love plantains and these chips were super crunchy and came in a fun curly shape perfect for dipping.
We finally placed our order and were looking forward to trying each dish. The first to arrive was the avocado spring rolls with prune and cilantro dipping sauce. The spring roll was an excellent combination of crispy coating and fresh, buttery avocado which was warm from the fryer.
Next out was the yucca fries, served in a vertical presentation and topped with a paprika sauce. This dish is similar to the traditional Spanish dish patatas bravas, but with a unique twist. The yucca was hot and crispy on the outside and the sauce had a great kick. I may have licked my fingers. Whoops.
The third dish to come out was the best of the night - the avocado and tomato salad. This dish was actually on the nightly specials menu. The salad is a half of an avocado, cherry tomatoes and fried cheese topped with a generous sprinkle of micro greens and balsamic dressing.
Look at all these goodies!
This salad was so fresh, and though it was simple, the flavor combinations were sublime and the dressing was so delicious that we actually discussed whether or not it would be rude to run our fingers along the plate to get every last drop.
One of the girls ordered the cold cucumber soup which came topped with cubed watermelon and a scoop of crab meat. She said the crab taste was subtle and the soup was great whether you had a bite with crab or not. Personally, I always have a hard time with cold soups. No matter what, my instinct is always to blow on each spoonful.
The next dish to come out was the open face beef tenderloin sandwich with sauteed and crispy onions. Our waiter had told us this is his favorite dish on the whole menu, so the girls had high hopes. They reported that the house made ketchup, rather than the beef, is what actually made the dish. The ketchup was both tangy and sweet and was smeared liberally across the toasted bread.
My friend who did the PR for Casa B told me there was a new seasonal dessert on the menu that was a trio of cakes and ice creams. Coming in, I knew I wanted to have this. The dessert was banana cake with strawberry ice cream, rum pineapple cake with pistachio ice cream and chocolate cake with hazelnut ice cream.
The banana cake with strawberry ice cream tasted like a frozen strawberry popsicle. I liked the taste, but it definitely wasn't what I was expecting.
The chocolate cake with hazelnut ice cream and the rum pineapple cake with pistachio ice cream was so underwhelming that I took one bite and abandoned those cakes. The chocolate cake was incredibly dry and the rum pineapple cake with pistachio ice cream tasted like bird seed.
I really wanted to love this dessert, but it was a major let down. Minus one dessert at Tasca in Brighton, I've actually never had a good dessert at a tapas place.
Since we'd clearly ordered the whole menu, our waiter brought us our check. This check was unlike any other check I'd ever seen. Our waiter handed us an electronic bill that not only allowed you to divide it any why you wanted and swipe your card right there on the machine, but it also allowed you to rate each dish right on the touch screen. This was efficient and fun, and it also happens to be a genius way to get immediate feedback from your diners.
Before leaving, I snuck upstairs to use the ladies room. It was so beautiful that I couldn't resist snapping a few photos. The ladies room had a sexy vibe with sultry red walls and flickering candles. In addition to the impressive design of the space, the sink hosted a basket of fresh towels to dry your hands. Real towels in a ladies room always makes me feel like I'm somewhere extravagant.
Our experience at Casa B was an interesting one. There is no question that the decor is special, unique and stunning. The terrarium feel of the bottom level is truly one of a kind and I am lusting after those tufted bar stools for two. Throughout the night the restaurant played lively Spanish music that had us bopping in our seats and itching to dance.
When it comes to the food, every dish had a thoughtful and visually appealing presentation. Our waiter always brought enough silverware for every person at the table no matter who ordered the dish, which encouraged sharing. Sadly, there was only one dish I would really come back for, and that dish (the avocado and tomato salad) was a special so there is no guarantee if I went back that I'd get to have it again.
The night we went to Casa B we were the only people in the restaurant. Our waiter told us it was the first night since they opened that they didn't have any reservations. Since it was the Sunday before July 4th, we assumed the emptiness was due to people being on vacation. As the only people in the restaurant, we had all eyes on us - the chef, the bartender, the hostess, the waiter - which at times made me feel a bit like a zoo animal.
I really wanted to love Casa B, but it's just not there yet. Have you been? What did you think?