By Adam Bezigian
Casa B, a modern Latin American tapas restaurant in Union Square, brings another solid, high-quality dining option to the neighborhood. If you needed more proof that Union Square is transcending from industrial wasteland (the good ol’ days) to single-stream recycling (yuppie trash), look no further. Let that not disparage Casa B in any way.
We all know that Union Square is the haute neighborhood in Somerville, but what it’s got in depth it seems to lack in breadth. I contend that there is no competition to the locavore’s Mecca, Journeyman. The tiny, well-sourced Sherman Market has no equal and The Neighborhood Restaurant has no rivalry akin to the sometimes-bloody feud between Ball Square Café and Sound Bites. The presence of Casa B brings a fresh sense of competition. Who should watch out? For high quality, non-traditional tapas: Ronnarong. Late night delicious drink-and-a-bite: The Independent. Fresh, clever cuisine: Journeyman. Latin American cuisine that is not tacos: Machu Picchu.
What does Casa B bring to the table? The space is divided into two very different floors. The upstairs is small, quiet, and neat, appropriate for lunch or eating dinner with someone you hate (grandma). The basement is where the action is, though. The walls are covered in vintage ephemera and plants. The bar, which faces the kitchen, has two-top upholstered bar stools, quite appropriate for a comfy first date. In short, the gorgeous, well-decorated environment is far too intimate for me to feel comfortable yelling about the worst thing I saw a dog do that day (eat what appeared to be a piece of pizza while “in the irreversible throes of digestive egress,” its tail wagging). Let’s call it a win for the average diner but a loss for those who take great interest in the eccentricities of canine elimination.
But the food, man, the food. The portions were small but completely in keeping with high-throughput, unique tapas dishes. I was especially enamored by the sweet and savory albóndigas en salsa de guayaba (meatballs in guava sauce, $9) and the rollitos de aguacate con salsa de ciruelas y cilantro (crispy avocado rolls, prune and cilantro sauce, $8). If you have a friend who you are trying to get to eat more offal (maybe they have a family history of gout), go for the mollejas de pollo(chicken gizzards and sautéed onions on toast, $9), which stood out as my single favorite dish.
There were some unexpected perks. The wine list featured diverse and well-priced offerings, with many bottles under $35, which was very refreshing. A real feather in Casa B’s cap was a surprisingly full gluten-free menu, which was quickly and happily presented upon request. My gluten-free dining partner was impressed with the options; topping her gluten-free chart was setas con papas dulce (wild mushroom sauté on sweet white potato, $7).
I am excited by the possibilities that Casa B suggests. When the Green Line extension is completed in 2055, riders will find a dynamic neighborhood with many fine dining and shopping options. If there’s any justice in the march toward progress, Casa B will by then be a long-established favorite.