Evening restaurant review
Before I write about our dinner at Bambara, I should confess it is one of my personal favorite restaurants here in Salt Lake City. When it comes to Bambara, I often wax lyrical to family and friends, but will try to remain as unbiased as possible here.
As such, Bambara was a relatively simple choice for our recent special night out; a combined birthday/wedding anniversary evening. We were also intrigued by the recent departure of head chef (Robert Baker). We wondered how the kitchen would be running without their leader of many years.
As ever, we reserved in advance; reservations are always a good idea at Bambara. Bambara’s location in the Hotel Monaco sees the normal dining crowd bolstered by the hotel’s guests, which quite often can include large convention crowds. On arrival, we were greeted by the ever-friendly host/s and quickly ushered to our seats. We always reserve seats close to the large windows. They are a little more romantic and comfotable than the standard booths.
On being seated, the first of many small little special touches and attention to detail became evident. Our waiter introduced himself and wished us many happy returns, our menu’s were presented and were uniquely headed for each of us:
We didn’t mention the occasion on reservation and I am sure they use a simple computer system to record this; however easily achieved, it’s a refreshing way to be acknowledged and welcomed. Especially after several fake and/or rushed dining experiences at other comparably priced restaurants. I digress.
To begin the meal we opted to share a plate of the Crab Stuffed Piquillo Peppers (Jalapeno Corn Tartar Sauce, Crispy Pancetta, Frisee, Sherry Vinaigrette) ($13.50):
A dish we hadn’t tried before, but found quite pleasant. The creamy sauce working well with the sweetness of the pepper and rich flavor of the crab.
Next, I chose the Wagyu Beef Carpaccio ($12.00). Simply seasoned and topped with a bitter baby spinach salad and parmesan reggiano. I declined on the cheese:
If memory serves, this dish has slightly changed since I last ate at Bambara. The greens have been reduced and it is slightly improved as a result. The beef was melt in the mouth tender.
Wendi’s entree was the Sauteed Prawns (Fettuccini, Tomato Concasse, Prosciutto Ham, Parmesan Cheese,Truffle Butter) ($23.00)
The prawns were a little underdone for Wendi’s tastes, although, she did note that the fettucini was excellent, as was the sauce.
After jealously watching Wendi’s entree choice on a previous visit I had to try the Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut (Basil Mashed Potatoes, Tomato Pine Nut-Truffle Vinaigrette) for myself this time around ($30.00):
I am constantly bewildered by how many restaurants over cook and under season their fish. The halibut was perfectly cooked. Well seasoned and pan roasted with a crisp exterior and moist flesh. The basil mashed potatoes were a perfect accompaniment, light and creamy. The vinaigrette proved an interesting match with hints of an aniseed/liquorice flavor. Quite possibly one of my favorite fish dishes, definitely the favorite of those I have had recently.
After our plates were cleared away, we were offered dessert. Not having an overly sweet tooth myself, the choice normally falls to Wendi. She duly obliged and chose a strawberry shortcake, I opted for a glass of port. Whilst waiting for our dessert, we also received two complimentary creme brulee. Again, another enjoyable surprise.
The dessert itself came to the table just after the creme brulee, and it was a little unforgettable truth be told. The shortcake element of the dish was rich and buttery, but the berries and cream were honestly a little boring. To be fair, if we knew a free creme brulee was en route, we would have most likely forgone a paid dessert.
As I touched on earlier, the small touches really enhance the dining experience at Bambara. From something as simple as the bespoke cutlery to the knowledge and professionalism of all the staff. It is clear the moment you walk through the door this is an expertly-run operation. I fail to recall having had a bad experience at Bambara.
Special note should be made of the service at Bambara. Over the years, we have had the pleasure of many different servers. Every one has been friendly and fully versed on the food and wine. If, like me, you have a query on a cooking technique or origin of ingredient, the staff at Bambara will only be too happy to accommodate you without a hint of pretension.
Since our recent visit, Bambara have employed a new head chef in Dave Jones (formerly of Log Haven). I for one can’t wait for our next visit to see how the menu evolves over the coming months. I’m confident the impeccable standards already set will continue.
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.