3 of us arrived at Baru on a Sunday night, and the ambience was very funky and inviting. We liked the design. The bass on the music was too loud, but otherwise the dining space was nice.
We ordered a white-wine sangria, made from sauv blanc according to the server. The fruit juice overpowered the wine, so it was essentially like drinking fruit juice. They need to use a sharper sauv. blanc in my opinion.
We started with a ceviche sampler and latin chips. I've travelled fairly extensively throughout Latin America. Ceviche is fish chunks 'cooked' in sharp citric acid (lime or lemon juice), so the protein and acid provide a stark contrast; in LatAm, it is often served with a fat (i.e. mayo) to balance out the other two elements. Salt is added by the diner to taste. The ceviche at Baru had lots of shrimp in it (I can't say it's never eaten this way in LatAm, I've just never encountered it), and if there was acid present, it did not make itself known to our palates. Sashimi works in Japanese cuisine because it is generally fatty fish, palate-cleansing acid (wasabi and ginger) and salt to stimulate the tongue and enhance the fresh flavours. Baru's ceviche was essentially sashimi cubes with shrimp, without enough salt or acid. It was ok, but it wasn't excellent by any means.
The latin chips are fried tubers (cassava, yam, plaintain.) Very oily and rich. Not bad - but IMHO, the salsas did not match the starchy fat - guacamole, for instance, is from the fatty avocado. You don't put fatty starchy plaintain with fatty, starchy avocado. It doesn't balance. The other two salsas were not piquant enough on the one hand, and too smoky on the other.
Our mains - paella, duck, and lamb; the lamb was mine, but I tried the others.
The meat was done to perfection, BUT it was served in what they call "guava mojo" - which instead of being a slightly sweet, complementary sauce to enhance the lamb, was a big ladle-full of very sweet liquid poured over the whole dish and everything was sweet, sweet, sweet. I can appreciate the sweetness of a mango chutney, cherries with roast meat, apples with pork, or even tropical fruit with lamb; but it's supposed to play a counter-role to punctuate and enhance - not to overpower or drown. It was, in a word, disgusting.
This was the only meal I've ever had as an adult where I took 3 bites, and pushed the entire dish, pretty much completely uneaten, away. The food was cooked properly, but the recipe is unacceptable - completely unbalanced. One dining partner offered to trade with me his paella - I tried two bites, and couldn't go on. The only flavour was spice, so the mussels, scallops and fish were textures, not flavours. He took one bite of the lamb and pushed it away.
The duck meat was done beautifully, but the sauce with it was much like the lamb's; duck lends itself to sweet flavours, I admit, but the herbed rice they served with it (I think it was supposed to be savoury) had sucked up the sweet sauces they poured over it, and it was not a pleasant combination by any means.
I must credit the staff at Baru: they were very apologetic that I didn't like the lamb, and they bought us dessert. They were very friendly, and did a good job at making us feel welcome. They greeted us promptly, seated and served us promptly, checked on us at the right times, and saw us out the door with more apologies.
Having said that, the desserts were awfully, awfully sweet, and the total bill (without the desserts) was $160 before tip. O U C H!!!! And I didn't even eat my dinner. The value is REALLY REALLY not there.
The recipes were made by cooks, not chefs. Executed well, but completely unbalanced, unprofessional in terms of flavour profile, and not cuisine by any stretch of the imagination. But you pay cuisine prices.
Final note - after we left, 2 of the 3 of us had very uncomfortable tummies. You couldn't pay me to go back to Baru.