You know how everyone has to disclose their interests in research articles or news stories these days? Well, I’ve known Alberto Cabre and Angelina Jockovich since before their new restaurant Casa B was a twinkle in their imaginative eyes. The more important question is, would I shamelessly promote my friends even if they weren’t doing a good job? The answer to that is no. If I had a friend who opened a lousy restaurant, I would graciously thank them for involving me in whatever opening festivities occurred. I would love and support them and not say anything about the place publicly.
I chose to write about Casa B today. I sidelined my planned post to write this one. I am speaking publicly about Casa B.
Casa B is a 40ish seat Hispanic-Diaspora themed tapas restaurant in Union Square in Somerville. Angie is Columbian and Alberto is Puerto Rican so their tapas is redolent with the flavors, ingredients and energy of the Caribbean and South America. Yucca, plantain, and sweet potato are use used in place of bread and rice. There is a lust for and focus on seafood –the trio of ceviche is good, novel and I think likely to become the signature tapas– that channels their coastal histories. Yet, there are nods to the Spanish traditions as well. There are two bacalao tapas and both are divine. Hard as it was to choose the salad of salt cod with guacamole was so refreshing it edged out the bacalao fritter, barely. There is also a sweet take on buñuelos on the dessert menu. This is a light sweet bite to end the night. They are a not to churros and the dessert doughnut trend that is all over Boston.
The food is good. The flavors are strong, delicious and unique in their category (seriously, when was the last time you had a tapas featuring chicken hearts? Especially one that made you lick your fingers and think about ordering another plate?). But I think a major hook here is the beauty of the space. Alberto and Angie have design backgrounds (understatement). This makes them meticulous and respectful of details, it also made them dream up an interior that is bold, savvy and distinct. The two levels of Casa B somehow manage to be cozy, homey, evocative and transporting all at once. The palette, lines and tropical flowers suggest Miami. The music might make you dream of Cuba. Yet, the partitioning of the space gives a strong feeling of intimacy, and the table seating invites you to lean back and get comfortable. Empty or full, most seats in the house make you feel like the restaurant was opened just for you.
Like any paradise, coming into full bloom is a process. The bar area downstairs feels a little cramped and the traffic flow for guests there is not good. Diners opting to sit at the counter to watch the open kitchen might be surprised to find they will be sharing a bar height settee (definitely saw some bro discomfort on this front last night). I’m not sure how this will play out over the long haul. As much as I think that seating arrangement might put some diners off that experience, they are damn beautiful chairs and I would hate to see them go. Finally, the service doesn’t yet have the snap of a tight, seasoned FOH. However, I am going to chalk at least 30% of that up to the party I was with. We were a large group and all friends of the owners. We tended to make ourselves at home and were not so good at being served so maybe we created the laxity in our service.
Casa B sports a wall of lush tropical greenery in the downstairs dining room. I almost didn’t want to bring it up because this unique feature will be mentioned in every review. But it’s pretty cool. So now you’re in the know. A Boston Globe photographer was through last night to take photos for a new restaurant profile. Look for it, or better yet go in and taste the place for yourself.