Andrea: The owners of Casa del Barco have obviously invested a lot of money into the space. The restaurant is absolutely beautiful and has a super cool vibe for brunch as well as for happy hour/late night because the lighting transitions so well from day to evening. I suggested brunch here because I heard about their tequila selection and we know how much Kathy loves tequila ;) Also, a few weeks ago, I had a happy hour dinner here and enjoyed the ambiance and the empanadas. I brought a guest bruncher with me too because I had a friend in town this weekend. We ordered the same main dish - braised pork shank hash, which came with green chile sauce, hash browns, frijoles negros, and arroz con cilantro. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, everything but the hash browns (actually more like roasted potatoes) fell flat. Visually, I couldn't tell the difference between the pork and the potatoes. The black beans and rice were tasteless even though the beans did have some queso fresco on them. The eggs were beyond poached - almost hard-boiled in fact. Luckily, we ordered guacamole with bacon for an appetizer. I thought that was fabulous...crispy bacon and excellent tortilla chips to accompany the dip. I'll definitely be back for half price drinks at happy hour, but I won't come back for a full dinner or brunch again. Such a shame that the quality of the food doesn't match the amazing ambiance.
Michele: Finding Casa del Barco was a little frustrating for me. I work out near Short Pump and live in the Museum District, and the Canal Walk remains a secret and mysterious destination to me, even though I've claimed Richmond for 5 1/2 years now. I parked on Cary St in the Slip just because I'm not really sure how the streets run south of the expressway, and I'm more comfortable wandering around lost on foot rather than by car. After walking past the Christopher Newport monument a couple of times, I finally found the door to Casa del Barco.
In spite of all my wanderings, I still managed to arrive first this week. The hostess gave me the choice of a table or a booth. I asked for one of the super cool booths in the middle of the dining room. What's so cool about them? They're huge and open on both sides, and I'm sure at least 6 people could fit comfortably in one. It was luxurious for 4. Our handsome waiter brought me my Bloody Maria and a French press pot of coffee while I waited. He even stopped by a few minutes later to give me a time check on the coffee.
When the rest of the group arrived, we decided to start with the bacon guacamole and the Veracruzano ceviche. We also got a couple of interesting salsas to go with our chips. The guacamole was super tasty, but the ceviche was equivalently disappointing. The ceviche was entirely too salty, and it tasted like it had been sitting in the fridge for a couple of day. It didn't taste spoiled, but the fish was just mushy.
For my meal I selected the Chilaquiles. As salty as our ceviche was, my entree lacked any seasoning whatsoever. The pork tasted like the potatoes, which tasted like the beans. I tried to help the dish out with the two housemade hot sauces. The ghost pepper sauce made my mouth a little numb. Honestly, I just wanted scoop some of the bacon guac into a tortilla and eat that.
As disappointing as the food was at Casa del Barco, it's still a cool spot. Empty tequila bottles hang from the ceiling, and it's hard to beat the Canal Walk location. Andrea told us all about their awesome happy hour, and I would come back to check that out. However, you will have a hard time convincing me to order any food beyond chips and guacamole.
We ordered a ceviche app, and after the to die for ceviche at Rappahannock I had high expectations. This ceviche was way too salty, and didn't taste very fresh. We also ordered bacon tomato guac with chips for an app, and this was the only bright spot in the meal. If I'd known, I would have ordered only that, bowl after bowl. The large chunks of crispy bacon pleased me.
I appreciated that CdB made their own salsa - a watermelon and also an arugula flavor. They tasted sweet, and were not to my liking, but that's probably just personal preference rather than a flaw in salsa design. My entree typified the Mexican food experience I've had everywhere else in Richmond (except Tio Pablo's, naturally, god love that place) - flavorless and simply cooked poorly. I ordered the huevos taco con chorizo and while plated beautifully, I could not taste the chorizo to save my life. The eggs tasted a bit mushy (though to be fair, loyal readers know I like my eggs like rocks). The tortilla tasted like nothingness. I could have doused the entire meal in the hot sauce they offered, but I shouldn't have to in order to get some flavor. In the end, I ate only one half of one taco. I'll end on a positive note: the potato side could have used a bit more spice, but was cooked perfectly. The menu calls them hashbrowns, a pet peeve of mine, because those are not hashbrowns, but they also weren't as small as homefries. They were potatoes, plan and simple, but done well.
Food - Fair. The bacon guacamole was the star of everyone's meal but we were expecting to get a little more given the pricetag. Cevice was too salty. Eggs were overcooked on Andrea's pork dish. Everything just really needed more flavor, which is ironic given that the word SABOR (flavor in Spanish) is in big letters on the entrance to the kitchen. Black beans and rice were bland. The home made salsas and hot sauces looked pretty, but again, the salsas could have been kicked up a notch. Few vegetarian options but otherwise good selection of items on the menu.
Service - Very Good. Our server was attentive and friendly. And attractive! :) He took care of Michele while she was waiting for the rest of the brunchers to arrive.
Atmosphere - Very Good. Definitely the highlight of the whole dining experience. Beautiful light fixtures; some had romantic ironwork, one chandelier was made of glass bottles, and the colored lights down the middle of the restaurant changed hues. Was really cool to see the bottles of tequila hanging from the ceiling. Great music selection too. One downside: the bathroom (at least the ladies room) is extremely cold.
Coffee/Tea - Very Good (C)/Fair (T). The coffee was french press. It was strong and tasted a little hazelnutty almost. Kathy was very disappointed that the tea was simply a bag of Lipton's in a white cup, especially when compared with the beauty that is the french press.
Mimosa - Fair. Kathy ordered a passionfruit sparkling beverage, usually her go-to fruit mixer of course, and was not impressed with the freshness of the juice nor with the price ($8).
Bloody Mary - Good. Holy tequila! Spicy, chili salt on the rim. Whole pepper garnish a bit awkward.