We made it over to Kika Tapas, the new place from the Tapeo/Solea folks in Kendall Square, last Thursday night. I thought they did a nice job with the physical space. It'll get a good after work crowd, so it was smart that they devoted a large section of the restaurant to a fairly spacious bar area.
The bartending was much weaker than I anticipated. The cocktail menu is made up of what appear to be the expected overly sweet drinks. We didn't try any so I can't really confirm this, though. They had two beers on draft (and a decent bottle selection). We went with the Estrella - it was our second favorite Spanish beer from our time in Barcelona (I believe the other beer on tap was Harpoon IPA). When I told the bartender we wanted two Estrellas, he gave me this puzzled look, then searched the cocktail menu. I had to remind that Estrella was beer, not a mixed drink. Not a good sign for the level of bartending to say the least. Later on in the evening the same bartender received a crash course on how muddle mint in a drink. Yet again, not a good sign for the overall skill of the bartenders.
We found the food quite similar to Tapeo. The notable difference was in regards to presentation. Everything at Kika was a little more refined. Our first dish was the marinated artichoke hearts. We've had this at Tapeo many times, but the Kika version was a little different. These artichokes were grilled (a nice touch) and they came in an overly salty oil that was verging on making them inedible. The second dish was the mussels with a spicy tomato broth. This was our favorite dish by far. The broth was particularly good. The third item we shared was the baked goat cheese with marinara. This was reminiscent of the same dish at Tapeo, but the Kika version lacked the flavor Tapeo has in the tomato sauce and the creaminess I'd expect from goat cheese. It was oddly quite firm. Our last item was the beer braised short ribs. Tapeo serves this dish floating in a bath of the braising liquid, while Kika cleaned up the plate and serves the quite large piece of meat (probably too large actually) on a plain white plate with a drizzle of sauce on top. The sauce was quite good, but I wanted more of it. The meat was also overly fatty in parts.
This was only their fourth day open for business, so I'll cut them a little slack for sure. There was a solid crowd and I'd expect them to do well. That being said, another sub par meal there and we'll probably just go across the street and hit Abigail's instead.