I had dinner at the newly opened CasCal in Mountain View a couple of weeks back. CasCal is billed as "bar . tapas . bodega". The first two I could figure out, but I'm not sure about the bodega part (the place seemed to be neither a first floor store or a warehouse) -- anyone?
The space is warm and inviting, with high, cream and orange walls. There are candle light wall sconces, ceiling fans with woven paddles, chandeliers, and dark wood beams. Surrounded by paintings, potted trees and ferns, on a dark night, it's not hard to imagine you aren't sitting in the middle of downtown Mountain View beneath the offices of a law firm. I didn't find the place noisy except for the 2 business types who sat at a table next to mine, talking loudly. Unobtrusive music set a pleasant mood, masking some of the sounds from the partially open view kitchen located midway back in the restaurant.
When I got to the restaurant (around 6:30 pm), it was 2/3 full. Service was quick and efficient, including taking my order, serving water, and handling additional orders for more tapas (see below).
The menu offers both standard plates as well as tapas. The tapas are billed as both old world (traditional) and new world (twists on the old, I suppose). I chose to start with a combination plate of the tapas so that I could sample as many as possible without bursting (dining alone can be a problem in a tapas bar ;-) ). This being Silicon Valley, the waiter entered my order into a Pocket PC with wireless access.
Immediately, grilled flatbread was served. The flatbread bore a faint hint of cumin and came with an olive oil-based dipping sauce thick with herbs. Tasty, but I had to limit how much I ate because the tapas came out quickly.
The tapas combination plate consisted of chorizo, manchego cheese, anchovy toast, Spanish tortilla, mussels, various olives, almonds, and serrano ham. Missing, although listed on the menu was a chicken roulade -- the kitchen offered up a cockamamie excuse about it only being provided with other tapas?!? I also ordered an additional tapa of spicy Moorish pork kabobs.
Well, let me see what my notes say about the different tapas:
chorizo: 2 slices, dark and slightly mealy. Not particularly spicy on the initial tasting.
manchego cheese: served in flat wedges with quince paste. This was a nice combination, with the quince paste being firm enough to be served in wedges that mirrored the cheese. 2 wedges of cheese.
anchovy toast: I hadn't thought that I would like this (anchovies, oh, yuck), but I did. The olive tapenade and onions mostly masked the anchovies (a good thing in my book). 2 pieces.
Spanish tortilla: this was not as fluffy nor as tasty as the ones I've had in Madrid. Made of eggs and potatoes, it would have benefited from some onions in the mix as well. It was served with a garlic aioli that was very garlicky but didn't do much for the tortilla. One wedge.
mussels: the mussels were fresh tasting, with the merest spalsh of a light herb vinaigrette. Two mussels.
Olives: these were small, marinated green and purple olives, served in a hollow roasted tomato half. I'm not much of a connoisseur of olives, so I couldn't tell you if these were good, bad, or ugly.
Roasted marcona almonds: rounder and flatter than their California cousins, these were served skinless and had less flavor than the usual almond.
Serrano ham: the ham wasn't too salty, but suffered from having some of the garlic aioli glopped on top of it. 2 goodly, thin slices.
spicy Moorish pork kabobs: they weren't spicy. And I can't imagine moors eating pork kabobs either. With a faint taste of the spices one would associate with Middle Eastern kabob, these came to 4 medium chunks of meat on small skewers. The kabobs were served with carrot/cabbage slaw that was spicy (almost kimchi-like, but with a light fruit taste as well -- aha, that's what they meant by spicy), and a very nice coucous with mint and red onion.
Still feeling a mite peckish, I decided to try some more of the tapas ala carte. I ordered the crispy masa boats filled with cuban roast pork and the wild mushroom empanadas.
masa boats: aside from the aforementioned pork, the boats came with chicken picadillo, refried black beans, and plaintains. The whole thing was mildly spiced and the beans surprised me by not being mashed to a pulp. The pork was lighter than the Cuban pork I've had in South Florida -- more like Hawaiian kahlua pig, but spicier. The boat was deep fried but wasn't greasy, with a nice corn taste. The beans, unfortunately, sort of smoothered the other flavors. The plain, diced, fried potatoes that were part of the dish didn't do much and I thought overall, the whole thing lacked depth.
wild mushroom empanadas: these were stuffed with manchego cheese, unspecified wild mushrooms, and truffle oil. The light crust was nice and was amazingly flakey for something that light. The truffle oil however, overwhelmed the cheese and mushrooms, buring them in its overpowering aroma. Probably that artificial white truffle essence, sigh.
Having eaten that much in order to get a Chowhound report out of the meal, I decided to do some extra damage by ordering dessert. On the waiter's recommendation, I tried the sweet potato bread pudding with lime caramel and mexican chantilly cream. The pudding was not very custardy and lacked spice and flavor of its own. The cream and caramel were needed to liven it up, and they did this well. The caramel was ever so light and transparent, just right for the dessert.
Total, including tax and tip: $39. There's an international wine list with bottles from $18 to $63. Corkage is $10.
Summary: nice space, acceptable food, and an interesting addition to the Mountain View dining scene.
Hopefully not too many typos. :-)
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