Mr. and I often eat out at West Coast restaurants and French bistros. To diversify our culinary experience, we took the opportunity to look for something different for Dine Out Vancouver. We decided on Latin American; we chose Baru Latino as per Frank’s recommendation list.
Honestly, I have limited knowledge about Latin American cuisine, so I went to the restaurant with an open mind and hoped for a great meal. First I noticed that its actual Dine Out menu is different from what’s on the Tourism Vancouver website: Tuna Caribe is replaced by Baru Ceviche; and only 2 Empenadas will be served, instead of 3 as stated online. Second, I concluded that they have 3 main ingredients in their dishes: tomatoes, lime and cilantro.
In addition to the Dine Out menu, we ordered some Latin Empenadas, because we (read: Joyce) like food so much. Because it’s off the regular menu, we got 3 empenadas and we chose a mix of 2 beef and 1 cheese. They came with a smoke salsa, which was roasted tomatoes with chipotle seasoning. I personally found the flavour of the stuffing a bit too mild. I could taste it, but it’s not quite there. To Mr., they were “artery clogging goodness with simple flavours”.
Joyce’s combo: Baru Ceviche + Cartagena Crusted Halibut
My selection shows my lack of experience in having Latin American food. How? Because this combination is overly acidic for my liking. The use of lemon juice in the Baru Ceviche certainly whetted my appetite; it also took away the fishiness of halibut and shrimp (if any, I wouldn’t know since the lemon juice would’ve covered it). Of course, squeezing more juice from the lime wedge didn’t help my case. I was thankful that it came with a plantain pancake at the bottom which balanced the acidity of the salad. Then the Cartagena Crusted Halibut was moist. The tangy taramind glaze was nice, but was too powerful that at times it was the only thing I could taste – the natural flavour of halibut was nowhere to be found. The cilantro rice was very fragrant, although a bit too dry. Dessert was my favourite dish of the evening. The Latin Flan reminds me of Pudim de Leite Condensado but denser in texture. I especially liked the mixed berry & mango sauce. It accentuated the taste of the flan.
Mr.’s combo: Chuletillas de Cordero + Paella Baru
To start, I had the Chuletillas de Cordero with Sweet Potato Mash. I’m not exactly sure how often Australian Lamb gets into South American cuisine, it didn’t affect how much I’d enjoyed it. The lamb was done in a nice medium, and it went very well with the sweet and slightly tangy Guava Mojo sauce that lined the plate. The mashed sweet potatoes was good too, though I’m definitely a ’tater person at heart. The one thing that almost ruined this for me was the knife and/or plate. Try to close your eyes and imagine a house cat dragging its claw across a chalk board, slowly. That’s the noise the knife made against the plate when I was cutting up the lamb. After a couple times I gave up and got medieval with the meat. Forget proper manners, I used teeth and hands to “git ’er done”.
I had the Paella Baru for main. Picture a stir fry rice dish with some flatbread on the side. I liked the combination of seafood, chicken and sausages, and the salsa that everything sat in. It had just the right amount of spiciness, but it was a little too salty for my preference, but then again I find most restaurant food the same way. I didn’t like how the rice was done (apparently it’s just how it is in Latino cuisines). They were like tiny little rock grinders that challenged the strength of my teeth. The Latin Flan was a lot of fun to eat. I’ve always liked things that are jiggly and delicious.
The service quality was decent. We decided to order the empenadas at the last time, after we had the appetizers, but our server still managed to stop the kitchen just in time, put in an order of empenadas, and hold off serving the entrees. We didn’t feel rushed even though it took awhile for us to decide on food and drinks – we even got a quick Spanish lesson when we were trying to order the dishes!
And mostly importantly, our server was genuine. She didn’t come with, quoting Mr., “the fakeness you get at most fine dining restaurants. It was an A+ in my book.”
This is a nice little restaurant for an evening out with friends. It seats about 60 people, with an open kitchen and a bar area. A couple of decor items at the restaurant caught my attention: the use of a big canoe on the wall and the big lamp hanging right above Mr.‘s shoulder. The noise level increased as the night progressed.
I wish the flavours were more intense. However, good atmosphere and good company made up for a good dinner out.
2535 Alma Street, Vancouver