Evening restaurant review follow-up
For our previous complete Bambara review please see here.
This is the first of a number of follow-up reviews. Follow-ups are instances where we revisit restaurants close to our previous visit. These reviews will only be brief overviews of new dishes sampled. Should there be any significant changes in the restaurant since our previous visit, a more complete blow-by-blow review will be forthcoming.
Eager to see how Bambara has fared since Chef Dave Jones joined, we took a friend to dinner. Initial impressions seem to suggest Bambara is continuing with the already great standards set under Chef Barker.
Since our last visit the menu has seen a couple of new additions (both of which we tried). I will forego mention of the appetizers, suffice to say they were the same as our previous review, and just as well executed.
For their entree our guest tried the evening special. The Bone-in 16oz Ribeye Special (Fried Zucchini, House Parmesan Fries, $40):
Cooked expertly as ordered (to medium) he concurred this was one of the tastiest dishes he had eaten in a long time.
Wendi tried the Sesame Crusted Yellow Fin Tuna (Bamboo Rice Cake, Shiitake Mushroom Salad, Blonde Miso, $29):
A beautiful looking dish, the flavours did not disappoint. Wendi concluded she had ordered the best of the three orders, but I had to disagree after sampling mine.
With the Halibut no longer on the menu I tried the Pan Seared New Zealand Sea Bass (Winter Harvest Chowder, Crisp Smoked Prosciutto, $28):
I loved this dish. An expertly cooked piece of sea bass atop a potato croquette/cake, all swimming in a rich creamy soup. Although I was sad to see the loss of the Halibut, this new dish is a wonderful replacement.
We finished with some port and the deliciously light Panna Cotta ($7)
A great end to another great meal at Bambara. I for one am eager to welcome in Spring 2008 and see Chef Jones continue to make his mark on the Bambara menu.
Bambara restaurant website located at 202 S Main St, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with multiple local publications from Visit Salt Lake to Salt Lake Magazine, not least helped to consult on national TV shows.
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2 thoughts on “Bambara restaurant follow-up”
Escape to bambara
For Q Magazine
Many years ago, when I was a little boy, I frequently came to Salt Lake and stayed with my elder sister who was a school teacher here. She often brought me downtown and we would by cheesy bread and ZCMI and stroll down Main Street to peer into the window of Andrian and Emily’s. The moment I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Monaco I felt I was transported into another time and place. The hotel is grand, elegant, eclectic and very not Utah!
I was met, graciously, at the entrance of Bambara by the Maitre D who swept me into a beautifully appointed booth—I love booths. Again, I felt like I was having a New York or San Francisco moment—such an escape from my normal life and a can of soup heated in a micro-wave. The restaurant has the same high ceilings as the hotel and the kitchen is open with all the chefs busily in view of everyone. A handsome waiter name Chrit stepped up and with a winning smile and welcomed me. I wanted a glass of the “house” white but was told they serve many wines off their list by the glass (a very nice touch I thought) and soon a glass of Pine Ridge Chenin-Viognier was in front of me. The wine is refreshing and clean yet complex enough to enjoy and sense the marriage of both grapes—I haven’t had this wine in a long time and how great to get it by the glass! (I find in many restaurants I go to, that a very inexpensive and pedestrian wine is poured as the house wine—not the case here.)
Chrit, the waiter, has worked in restaurants, obviously, for many years and had the ability to explain the food in a nice, non-pretentious manner. The ingredients were simple but of the highest quality and later the Chef, Nathan Powers, explained to me that each day he personally trains the waiters and the kitchen staff about the food being prepared that day, and that they hold a contest on who is the best at re-explaining the dishes. The chef told me that Chrit is the one who nearly always wins.
Since it was my first trip to Bambara in three years, I asked the staff to choose my menu for me. Soon a bowl of bisque appeared glowing with the most gorgeous golden color, beautifully and simply garnished. This was a blend of roasted corn and poblano chilies topped with crab and cilantro oil. The texture was so creamy—it had to be laden with butter and cream but certainly the most delicious thing I’ve had in a long, long time. Chrit explained to me that a true bisque should be thickened with rice but that Chef Nathan thickens this soup with roux. (First time I’ve known a waiter to be savvy enough to know what a true bisque is.)
As with many restaurants who serve lunch, the bread was not very memorable but it did come with very nicely made hummus of Italian white beans and red peppers topped with very fine olive oil.
Next came a salad flanked on one side by a fan of fugi apples. The greens were mixed with hand-cut Belgian endive which had been soaked in lemon water to make them sweet and the dressing was an elegant Champagne vinaigrette. What I really loved and was excited about, was the large chunks of Maytag blue cheese. Nutty, salty, Roquefort-like—this was a great discovery for a cheese lover.
In the 70’s and 80’s I had my own restaurant and we served a beautiful, fat little trout from North Ogden, Utah. When I found out that Bambara had a Northern Utah trout I couldn’t believe it and, of course, had to try it. The chef served a “fat” small portion which was delicately breaded and fried. The skin still on, was delicious and added moisture to the fish—Julia Child said, “Always eat the skin on trout since it is the only fish worthy of such pleasure.” The plate was drenched in a shallot/brown-butter which was close to being awesome. Chef Powers explained to me that Bambara is dedicated to getting fresh local ingredients, like the trout, and he carefully selects, especially this time of year, the wonderful produce and other items available locally—this dedication was evident in his cuisine. The trout came with mashed potatoes laced with leek—a trick I often do myself, and a classic reference to the French—I was impressed.
I was served a glass of Dr. K. Frank Dry Riesling, a wine I’ve heard of but never tried. From the Finger Lakes region of New York—I wondered if the Chef chose this wine because he was born and raised in Rochester. This wine so reminded me of a delicate, Marcel Deiss Alsatian wine, crisp, clean and simple yet classy—very nice.
In between these courses I was served two huge and meaty Prawns in herb butter which I liked but I was briefly disappointed in the risotto at the bottom. It was loose and pasty and lacked the nuttiness I’m used to. Chrit mentioned that their risotto was not made with stock and I could tell.
For me, the piece de resistance came in the form of a “Lamb Slider.” This succulent lamb patty in the form of a tiny burger did not need its negligible bun. The meat was topped with spectacular julienned, marinated veggies and a triple-herb pesto. On the side I was wowed by a beautiful cornet de frites served with a light yet simple aioli—I thought I was in Brussels at La Grande Place. The fries were crisp and ethereal and piping hot, almost like pastry. They were served in a paper cone like you get at the fairs in Europe and I just loved the wood plank it was all served on. The wine too, so flattered the lamb—an ancient vine Mourvedre by Cline.
Chef Powers also talked to me about how “green” he is in his expectations of the restaurant business. Bambara uses only the most eco-friendly products for cleaning and using water etc. Nathan had a somber, yet warm, temperament and I truly enjoyed talking with him—he is a CIA graduate but has had enough experience in the real world to really know and care about what he is doing. Salt Lake is very lucky to have a guy like him in its culinary circle.
I have to say, it was joyful to be downtown again and I was excited to be there. Bambara is an oasis surrounded by a downtown culinary scene that has become trivial and predictable. If you haven’t been there recently, it’s well worth the trip—I enjoyed very much my “Escape” to Bambara and you should escape there soon too.
As a reviewer, I have to say I was invited and they were expecting me so no secrecy here, but that said, taking a note from the wine world—I give it 91 points. (By the way Chrit—you don’t pronounce the “H” in haricots verts!)
Chef Drew H Ellsworth, M.A., C.E.C.
Drew, is this you ? This is Mary from PBS. I’m so proud to see that you have finally put your culinary skills to work. Great Job Chef Drew! I remember you talking of wonderful dishes and watch your eyes tell me so much excitement of your plans. So good to see your dream lived.