La Bamba Mexican and Spanish Restaurant

Lunch quesadilla

***** (5 stars)

This place was a delightful surprise. The interior decor is colorful and festive, and the food is top notch.

We started with cheese nachos, a simple preparation with lots of jalapenos that was just what we were looking for.

I had the La Bamba combination, which included a beef taco, chicken enchilada, and chile relleno, plus rice and beans. The standout was the taco, which was deep fried with the beef in, then stuffed with cheese and lettuce. This is a fairly rare style, and is my favorite. The rice was also quite good.

The perfect margarita was, indeed perfect, with plenty of lime to offset the sweetness.

Service was attentive and friendly.

La Bamba Mexican and Spanish Restaurant
730 US Hwy 1
North Palm Beach, FL
33408
(561) 882-1718
https://www.yelp.com/biz/la-bamba-mexican-and-spanish-restaurant-north-palm-beach-3

Jaleo

Baby squid
Interior
Peppers
Rib eye
Bread that comes with the pork
Pork
Shrimp
Shrimp
Conch fritters
Ham
Olives
Ham
View
Interior

**** (4 stars)

This is a nice repurposing of the old Wolfgang Puck space. They’ve opened it up, and it still has great lake views and some nice outdoor seating for smaller parties.

The food isn’t exactly my idea of tapas, since the plates are sized for sharing among three or four people. To me, a tapas meal involves a dozen little saucers filled with different interesting bites.

I found a lot of the food to be very heavily salted. This was particularly true of the squid ink and some of the other sauces.

Highlights included the olives, and the Iberico ham carved tableside. By far the best dish was the pork shoulder, which was amazingly tender and flavorful, and turned out more like wagyu beef than pork.

Service was good, but don’t go in a hurry, because the kitchen seems to get backed up when the restaurant is busy.

The wine list is, of course, all about Spanish wines, which are not necessarily my favorites, but your mileage may vary.

Jaleo
1482 E Buena Vista Dr
Orlando, FL
32836
(321) 348-3211
https://www.yelp.com/biz/jaleo-orlando-2

é by José Andrés

Cream Catalana custard

Fluke

Caviar

Freezing sangria

Four gras

Cheeses

Spanish pizza

Preparation of cava sangria dew drops

Interior

**** (4.5 stars)

This is one of the more unique dining experiences in Las Vegas, with only nine seats at a counter in an intimate room. The experience is as much or more about the presentation as the actual food. Twenty or so courses are meticulously assembled in front of you. And unlike, say, l’Atelier, where there is a server between you and the chefs, here the chefs do that interaction as they work. It requires great talent and personality to fill that role.

Several levels of wine pairing are available here, and the wines are masterfully chosen to match the food. While it is expensive, I must say that the highest level wine pairing offered the best wines Ive encountered on a paring menu, with selections such as Unico and Chateau d’Yquem.

While none of the courses contained that home run of flavors that would stick with me in memory, I think the experience is well worth it, because of its unique intimacy.

é by José Andrés
3708 Las Vegas Blvd SLevel 2, Boulevard Tower
Las Vegas, NV
89109
(702) 698-7950
https://www.yelp.com/biz/%C3%A9-by-jos%C3%A9-andr%C3%A9s-las-vegas-4

The Bazaar by José Andrés

Interior

Exterior

Scallop ceviche

Caviar and lox cones

$9 a bite x 4

Foie Sandwich

Smoked oysters

Pork Bahn Mi Bun (3 Each)*

Octopus Toast

Squash Tempura Squash Blossoms

Philly Cheesesteak (signature dish)

Dessert room

Mille-Feuille, Caramel Cream and Salted Caramel

Rose

***** (5 stars)

The is an enormous restaurant that feels surprisingly intimate due to clever use of draperies and display cases as partitions. It definitely has an upbeat vibe, but isn’t deafening, and doesn’t make you feel like you’re not cool enough to be there.

Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s not cheap. In particular I thinking of the “cones” that look like little ice cream cones but are filled with ingredients like caviar. The operative word is “little”. They are literally smaller than your thumb, and couldn’t possibly be considered more than one bite, and not a very big bite at that. At $9 each they simply aren’t worth it, even if they are good.

But moving on, there are some much more noteworthy items on the menu. It’s divided between traditional tapas and modern tapas. The modern items were so interesting we just kept exploring, and never got to the traditional side of the extensive menu.

Scallop ceviche was Peruvian style with an unusual creamy but very tart broth. There were only a few bites of fish in the large bowl, but the tart broth made that seem like plenty.

The most inventive item we tried was the foie sandwich, which looked just like a Wonder Bread sandwich, but the bread was made of a somehow soft apple meringue! A thin layer of foie gras and jam was just enough.

Four raw oysters were served under a smoke-filled glass dome. The released smoke makes everyone around you want them, too!

Pork Bahn Mi Buns were three mini sliders with traditional flavors.

The octopus toast was extremely tender, and a generous serving. Raw jalapeno slices added a kick.

Squash tempura blossoms were stuffed with a cheese and olive mixture. The pungent olives overwhelmed the delicate flavors of the squash.

Philly cheesesteak is their signature dish, and it’s easy to see why. Four thin slices of wagyu are served atop a football-shaped pastry filled with a sharp cheese sauce. Eat this over a plate!!! It was delicious.

The wine list is fairly extensive, although most prices are pretty high. However, the Spanish wines are priced quite fairly, and there are some real gems.

A large section of the restaurant has been devoted to a separate dessert room, so at the conclusion of your meal they can transfer your drinks over there for a second experience that is seamless. The only other place I’ve seen this done is Berns in Tampa.

The dessert room lets you survey an array of dozens of items to help decide what you want to order. The rose filled with chocolate mousse was good, but the mille-feuille with salted caramel filling was even better.

Service in both parts of the restaurant was professional, attentive and pleasant. This is definitely one of the more interesting dining experiences in LA.

The Bazaar by José Andrés
465 South La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90048
(310) 246-5555
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-bazaar-by-jos%C3%A9-andr%C3%A9s-beverly-hills-3

Taste of Peru

Pescado a la Chorrillana

Ceviche Mixto

Causa de Camarones

Exterior

Interior

***** (5 stars)

This is the best Peruvian restaurant I’ve found in Orlando. In fact, the quality of the ceviche approached our benchmark, which we had in Lima Peru.

The place is small and decorated in dark woods and black fake alligator table tops, but it’s not at all grungy as one review seemed to imply. In fact, it’s quite clean, and even a bit edgy looking. I would vote to lose the really annoying Peruvian travel videos, though, which inexplicably have a soundtrack that sounds like Russian marching band dirges.

We started with the Causa de Camarones, which was a good as any causa I’ve had. It was missing a couple of layers that are usually present, but had a delightfully piquant quality and excellent sauce accompaniment.

Ceviche Mixto was a huge mound of mixed seafood in a mildly spicy creamy lime sauce. The shrimp and fish were good, and the calamari was excellent.

Pescado a la Chorrillana is a large serving of nicely battered and fried fish topped with onions, tomatoes and cilantro, and served with a mild sauce. The flavor of the cilantro came through nicely.

Service was very friendly, and the kitchen is extremely quick, obviously preparing everything from scratch, but at lightning speed. Pricing is reasonable, especially considering the generous portions.

Taste of Peru
9521 S Orange Blossom Trl
Ste 114A
Orlando, FL 32837
(407) 857-2734
http://www.yelp.com/biz/taste-of-peru-orlando-6

Gallettos Wine Bar & Grill

Exterior

Lunch Salad bar

Lunch buffet

*** (3 stars)

Gallettos offers a well-tended buffet at lunch time. While the food on the menu is Spanish and Portuguese, there was little evidence of this on the buffet. I’m pretty sure neither stroganoff or Chicken Milanese are from either of those countries!

The salad bar is somewhat limited by has very fresh ingredients for making a Caesar salad or a simple green salad. There are several soups available, too.

The main course buffet offerings are more extensive, wth two types of rice, two types of beans and several types of chicken. There were also ribs.

There were also a couple of dessert offerings.

The price of lunch was a very reasonable $9.95.

Everyone working there was friendly and attentive, but there were more employees than diners on the day we went. I would have liked to try the Portuguese specialties from the menu, but many were over $23, which was too much for lunch time. Perhaps I’ll go back for dinner.

Gallettos Wine Bar & Grill
3875 S Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 295-3146
https://www.yelp.com/biz/gallettos-wine-bar-and-grill-orlando

Bulla Gastrobar

Exterior

Interior

Gazpacho

Ceviche

Flatbread

Salmon rillettes

Burger

**** (4 stars)

I love the interior design of this place, which has cool lighting and excellent acoustics. It is a Spanish tapas restaurant, but at least at brunch I found the selections to be more modern American that authentic Spanish tapas.

My companion had the gazpacho, which was excellent, although unusual in that it seemed to include cream. She also had the ceviche, which included a very generous portion of cooked shrimp, but wasn’t really what she was looking for in an authentic Spanish ceviche.

I had the brunch, which allows you to choose three plates for $27. While that might sound steep, they are very large servings and quite shareable.

I had the flatbread with Mahón cheese, sunny side up quail eggs, caramelized onions, oyster mushrooms and bacon. It was one of the best flatbreads I’ve had, with a thin, crisp crust, charred around the edges, and the eggs and bacon perfectly cooked. The sweetness of the caramelized onions went perfectly with the savoriness of the other ingredients.

My second plate was supposed to be the salmon crostini, slices of salmon on crostini. Due to confusion in the kitchen (or a mistake our waiter was unwilling to admit to) they actually brought me the Salmon Rillettes, which was a spread. It’s actually not a selection on the brunch tasting menu, but I liked it fine, despite my confusion.

My third plate was the least successful. The Bulla Burger was a generous serviing of 45 day dry-aged beef, topped by cheese, sauteed onions and a single pepper. The meat was, in fact far too generous, more of a baseball than a patty. As a result the “medium” I ordered ended up charred on the outside but completely raw throughout the middle. I also felt the burger needed some condiments, as the ingredients didn’t really have that much flavor. However at this point I’d had so much food it didn’t really matter that this course went largely uneaten. I will say the accompanying “truffle fries” (which were actually rosemary flavored diced potatoes) were well cooked and tasty.

I’m not a big brunch fan, so I appreciated the wide varieties of non-brunchy offerings at Bulla. Service was friendly, and I’d definitely go back.

Bulla Gastrobar
110 S Orlando Ave
Ste 7
Winter Park, FL 32789
(321) 594-4175
http://www.yelp.com/biz/bulla-gastrobar-winter-park-2

Café Iberico

**** (4 stars)

This bustling tapas restaurant serves classic Spanish tapas in a rather brightly lit and loud dining room. Ironically enough, the bar is much quieter and more pleasant. In addition to the extensive list of rather large tapas items on the menu, there are smaller tasting size plates displayed in the cases that line the top of the bar. There’s also a fairly extensive list of wines and fino by the glass or bottle. Service is efficient but busy.

Café Iberico
737 N Lasalle Blvd
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 573-1510
http://www.yelp.com/biz/caf%C3%A9-iberico-chicago-3

Tapa Toro

***** (5 stars)

This may be Orlando’s best tapas restaurant. Its diverse menu offers all the standards, plus a lot of dishes with a unique twist, and unlike some tapas places there are a lot of lighter selections and many vegetarian offerings.

My favorite dish by far was the roasted cauliflower, which was perfectly seasoned and sauced, and topped with sultanas and capers. Yum! Grilled asparagus served with grated manchego was also very good.

More conventional were the salmon crudo and the grilled garlic shrimp plates. The assorted cold meat platter was also conventional except for the inclusion of a delicious house-made pate and house-made pickles.

There’s an extensive list of wines by the glass or bottle, plus a very intriguing cocktail list. I tried the Feliz Boca, an inspired mixture of rosemary, lavender, blood orange and bitters. Delicious, and an amazing match to the pate.

There’s a nice dessert menu, but note that there’s also a Ben and Jerry’s about ten feet away! Hmm. Decisions.

Service was very friendly and attentive, and the outdoor dining area is great–mostly shaded, with a view of the Orlando Eye, which is nearby.

Tapa Toro
8441 International Dr
Ste 260
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 226-2929
http://www.yelp.com/biz/tapa-toro-orlando

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!

**** (4 stars)

This bustling tapas restaurant is larger than it looks from the outside, and is consistently busy.

The menu has a reasonably broad selection of tapas and also paella. There is also a substantial wine and sangria list, and a separate cocktail menu.

I particularly enjoyed the house smoked salmon.

Bacon wrapped dates were nice and crisp on the outside without being mushy on the inside.

Buttermilk chicken thighs seemed mis-named, and were more like chicken tenders with a wing sauce on them.

Beef skewers were tender and nicely charred on the outside, although the horseradish sauce could have used more kick.

The empanadas had a delightfully flakey pastry.

Service was friendly and attentive. Dishes are delivered by runners, and come out as they are ready, so don’t order everything at once or you will be inundated in food!

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!
2024 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 935-5000
http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-ba-ba-reeba-chicago-3