Tuesday, July 19, 2011

BYOB at Baru

The arcane liquor laws of Orleans Parish may be frustrating to both present and potential restaurant owners, but the usual benefactors of this red tape (beside competing restaurants)are we consumers. I'm not certain if there is a more enticing incentive than BYOB with a nominal corkage fee, and I'll wager that places like Baru would not be nearly as popular if the standard beer and wine markup were part of the dining equation.

BYOB notwithstanding, the kitchen at Baru is worthy of praise, though the significant span between the high and low points on the menu and recent inconsistency in some of my favorite dishes have been cause for concern. The restaurant touts itself as a purveyor of Colombian cuisine, which most New Orleanians have zero experience with, however there are enough recognizable dishes on the menu that only a small sense of adventure is required.

The most popular offerings come from the ubiquitous tapas section, which still remains a siren song for Tulane and Loyola students, Uptown women young and old, and the foodie-lawyers sitting next to them. The Guacabello (top) is de riguer to begin a meal, but the shift from grilled bread to a fried spinach tortilla as the vessel of choice is a mistake in my opinion. Plus, on my last visit, the mixture of chopped, grilled portabellos mixed with chunks of avocado had not been seasoned near enough and failed to come together as a homogenized mixture. Sad.

Perhaps the second (if not equally as) popular dish is the mazorca (above) - a mixture of hot grilled corn, fresh farmer's cheese, "pink sauce", and potato sticks that for all I know could come straight from a can. It's delicious. Keeping with the starch theme, we almost always a side of mofongo, the mixture of fried and smashed plantain and crunchy pork skin that accompanies a few of the main dishes. Those in search of something more familiar might opt for the pork filled tamals, but the inclusions of raisins, carrot, and almonds make these versions anything but ordinary. Unfortunately, the flavors were collectively bland.

Seafood is a specialty of the house, and I have had differing levels of success across the board. The most successful dish is the house ceviche, whose acidic elixir had a thicker consistency than most, almost like a cold curry. The flavors were bright and rich at the same time, and the shrimp and fish were perfectly firm in texture. Cornmeal crusted oysters topped with aioli caramelized onions, and spicy chili sauce have been executed consistently well. Why anyone would order crabcakes at a restaurant like Baru is lost on me, so take my word for it that these are not very good.

Meat lovers will like opt for the mixed grill (right) of flank steak, chicken, and chorizo served with a chimichurri. If memory serves me correctly, the menu last week read that this dish is now served on skewers.

If BYOB were not enough of an economic incentive, the budget conscious diner can also take solace in Baru's low prices. Tapas range in price from $4 for the mazorca to $12 for the tuna tartare, with most others falling in the $8 to $10 range. Entrees are in the low $20s, but to be honest I rarely make it to that side of the menu. And why would I considering that two people can share 6 small plates, enjoy a bottle of wine, and have an overall nice meal for under $70 including tip?

Baru Bistro & Tapas - Par/Birdie
3700 Magazine Street
Lunch Mon-Sat; Dinner Nightly

1 comment:

jshushan said...

Just a technical note. According to their web site, they are dark on Mondays.