Something about tapas just makes me happy. I love trying a bunch of different things, and the small quantities are perfect. I’m the type of person that always finishes my entire plate when I go out to a restaurant, so I pretty rarely order multiple appetizers (or even appetizers at all, really), in an attempt to stop myself from eating the equivalent of six plates of food. The downside of that is that a lot of times when I dine somewhere, I only get to try one thing (plus a few bites of whatever Dan gets!). Tapas is basically designed for someone like me, who has no self-control, but also wants to be able to try all yummy things!
Kika Tapas is located a few minutes from the Kendall T stop, so it’s very convenient to Harvard Square, where I live. That being said, if you don’t live in the Cambridge area, they also have a couple of sister restaurants. Tapeo is on Newbury street, and Solea is in Waltham. I cannot vouch for Solea, because I haven’t been there, but I’ve been to Tapeo a couple of times and they have the same gluten free menu as Kika, so I would recommend Tapeo as an alternative if it’s more convenient.
The restaurant itself is decorated very nicely, with comfortable inside seating and a chic bar. There is also a really nice patio if the weather is nice (it hasn’t been for me, but I’d love to back when I’m able to enjoy a pitcher of sangria outside!). Kika has a separate gluten free menu – make sure to ask for it when you come in. The menu actually states that it’s “Gluten Friendly”, which always bothers me a little bit, but I haven’t had a reaction while eating here (I’ve been to Kika twice, and Tapeo twice). There are tons of gluten free options, from bigger plates (paella) to traditional tapas style dishes. Dan and I typically get four or five tapas to split between us, and it’s always enough food. When you place your order, make sure to specify that your order is gluten free. The first time we went, our waiter mentioned that sometimes people do not mention it because they think that the dishes are naturally gluten free – some of them need adjustments, either in ingredients or preparation method. So make sure you point it out!
Every time I’ve been to Kika or Tapeo, I order at least one order of Pão de Queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread. This is essentially a restaurant version of Brazi Bites, which are one of my favorite snacks. They are even better at Kika – super soft with an amazing cheese flavor. One order comes with three, so sometime if I’m extra hungry, I order two so I can have my own and Dan can have his own. Brazilian cheese bread is naturally gluten free, but always feels like a treat (soft and delicious bread at a restaurant! A rarity!). This time, we only ordered one, and it was a little less fresh than last time we’d been (maybe not baked as recently?), but still amazing.
We followed the cheese bread with Setas al Ajillo, or sautéed Portobello mushrooms. The mushrooms were seasoned perfectly, and there was enough of them that it still felt like a substantial tapas even without meat. I love mushrooms, and I was not disappointed with these – they were to die for.
Next, we enjoyed some Lomo de Buey – this is one of my favorite tapas that they offer. It is beef tenderloin with apricot, prunes, and figs in a brandy cream sauce – let me tell you, it is to die for. The sauce is out of this world – after we have finished the tenderloin, we keep the sauce on the table to dip any remaining tapas in (I’m sure this is frowned upon from a chef’s perspective, but it’s just so good!).
Next, we enjoyed my favorite (or is the Lomo de Buey my favorite? I can’t decide!) tapas – Gorditas! These are so simple and perfect – bacon wrapped prunes with goat cheese. I could eat hundreds of these. The flavor combination is perfect, and the bacon is always crispy and an amazing contrast to the prunes. I know something like this is easy to make at home (and I’ve done it), but it never tastes quite like Kika’s!
Finally, we closed the meal with Chuletillas, or baby lamb chops with apricot glaze. I forgot to take a picture of these, since they came out a bit later than the rest of the meal, but they were wonderful. Dan loves lamb, so these were right up his alley. We dipped some of the lamb in the leftover brandy cream sauce… no shame!
If you’re looking for a fun dining experience (there’s something so fun about Tapas), try Kika Tapas – I always feel great after eating there, and everything you’re eating is so full of flavor. The service is a bit hit or miss (I found that the last time I was there, the waiter was pretty condescending about me being gluten free, even after I told him I had celiac disease), but I have never had a gluten reaction from them or Tapeo, so I still count it a major win. Highly recommend!