Bambara restaurant (the Dave Jones) follow-up

So. This is my third review of Bambara in the last 12 months. I will hold my hands up and confess, it is one of my favourite restaurants here in Salt Lake City. That said, I haven’t managed to go there as often as I would have liked since chef Dave Jones took the helm earlier in the year. When some out-of-state friends asked for “somewhere good for dinner” during a recent visit, I suggested Bambara. A few quick glances at the menu were all it took to get these seasoned diners to sign up.

I will skip the service and décor comments, you can read more on those in our initial review of Bambara here. Suffice to say, service is still friendly, professional and courteous. I’m happy to report that the only thing to have changed is the menu.

This particular meal started with the Achiote-Masa Crusted Calamari (Manchego, Lime Jalapeno Aioli), $11.50:

bambara calamari

The calamari is a new addition to the menu I believe. We all found the Calamari decent enough, the masa crusting was appetizingly light and the squid not in the slightest chewy. Nothing exceptional, but certainly well executed standard.

One of the long standing menu items not to change under the new rein is Bambara’s signature Blue Cheese House Cut Potato Chips, $7.50:

bambara blue cheese chips

While a little sedate for me personally, everyone else seemed very happy with the chips. I think its the blue cheese that made everyone so happy, it does strange things to people.

One of my dining companions went with the Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna (Bamboo Rice Cake, Shiitake Mushroom Salad, Blonde Miso) $29.50:

bambara tuna

His smiling face from the arrival of the plate, right up to its departure from the table, told me he really enjoyed this dish. I even stole a bite for myself, great quality tuna, lightly seared to perfection. The accompanying rice cake created a few perplexed looks, but in the end, it too was wolfed down.

My other two guests both selected the mouth wateringly described Citrus Brined Salmon Creek Pork Chop (Wilted Greens, Grits, Grilled Stonefruit, Candied Walnuts, Cherry Balsamic Syrup), $24.50:

bambara pork chop

Our waiter Jake was very keen to recommend this dish. Indeed, I would have probably have ordered this myself, but for the sake of a more interesting review, I chose otherwise. The pork was undoubtedly the star of our four entrees. There is nothing as bad as overcooked pork chops in my book, so it was with much happiness that both diners found their chops expertly cooked and not the least bit dry. The accompanying stone fruit was also well received by both diners. A great entree.

The “pork chopp’ers” also decided to share a side order of Au Gratin Potatoes ($4.50):

bambara au gratin potatoes

The potatoes proved to be another big hit with the table, although slightly too much food alongside the large servings of pork. I personally have never bothered with the Bambara side dishes, knowing that the entrees are typically perfectly balanced and portioned.

For a little variety I chose the Cedar Planked Adobo Salmon (Grilled Nopalitos, Prickly Pear Sauce, White Bean-Corn Salsa, Queso Fresco, Tortilla Straws), $26.50:

bambara cedar planked salmon

While the Salmon was cooked well, I didn’t feel the cedar planking gave the fish *that* much extra flavour. When I offered a bite to a dining companion, he summed it up best with “I’m from the Pacific North West, I have had Salmon any way you can imagine, there is not much you can do that I haven’t tasted already. Salmon is salmon”. The grilled cactus was also a little odd. It had a slightly tough texture and a taste that only required a few bites before I lost interest. The “tortilla straws” were a nice twist, adding some crunch to the dish. Overall, the salmon was pleasant enough, but it didn’t set my world alight, not something I would order again.

In the final analysis my three guests were more than happy with their Bambara experience. I was happy to see that on the whole the new menu is working well, yet still retaining a few of the old classics (Prawn Fettuccini for one). I just need to ensure it doesn’t take me another six months to return to Bambara next time.

Bambara restaurant website located at 202 S Main St, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

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7 COMMENTS

  1. It would be nice to see Bambara really starting to reach its potential. My previous trips showed it as a nice “hotel” restaurant, but nothing more. The food has been nothing better than competent.

    I was never impressed with David Jones food at Log Haven. The dishes were always overly complex and ended up a little muddled because of it. I really like the more modern idea of highlighting the main ingredients in interesting ways. I know Ted Scheffler said David had changed his style to that direction at Bambara, but unfortunately I don’t know how much we can trust his thoughts on David. As he has said in the past his “personal relationship with a log haven employee” may have changed his view of David to a point he couldn’t not like David. I know there’s restaurants where I can’t give an unbiased review because the restaurant treats me differently, and better, than a normal patron.

  2. Compared against restaurants worldwide I would concur with you on the ‘nice hotel restaurant’ comment Rod. Bambara would not achieve a Michelin star in a European city for example.

    In the much smaller ocean that is SLC though, I think it does very well. I certainly always enjoy my meals there at any rate. The food and service is always at a consistent level, which means a lot to me.

    What’s your favourite pick of the finer end of SLC restaurants Rod?

  3. I do agree that the restaurant is definitely serviceable given the makeup of higher end Salt Lake Valley restaurants, though maybe a bit too pricey? I mean 26.50 for Salmon that by all accounts didn’t sound too spectacular sounds overpriced to me. But I will say I’ve never walked away disappointed nor overly ecstatic having eaten there. It reminds me of a lot of resturants you might eat at while on vacation in some other metropolitan areas where you are enjoying yourself but don’t really remember the name of it once you get back home. However, I will say that I love the restaurant’s bar and continue to be a regular patron if the wife and I are having a night in the city. I LOVE those blue cheese chips with a nice bloody mary or dirty martini. And the bar’s lack of a youth crowd and blaring music gives it a conversation-friendly vibe. Thanks for the review Stu!

  4. I guess I am a ‘glass is half full’ kinda guy…but I could see the argument that some items might be a touch overpriced. That said, you could say it is to be expected being a hotel restaurant in a down town area. I wonder how many meals at Bambara go on company expense accounts.

    You know what your going to get when you go there, and that’s invariably a competent meal and a consistent service experience. For me I’ve had as good time at Bambara as any other higher end SLC place.

    I like club Bambara as well Danny, although it’s been a while since we have drank there. Always seem to end up over at Murphys across the road.

  5. As I read Rod Schiffman’s response to this review, I am sorley dissapointed that he feels the need to be so negative not twards the restaurant, but directly twards the Chef. In Mr. Schiffman’s response he states that Chef Jones’s food is “…overly complex…” and “…muddled…” I feel that that reaction may have been created through lack of education, experience, and palette. It comes off as a personal attack more than an educated opinion. I am curious to know Mr. Schiffman’s culinary background, especially after no results came up (that are relevant to the culinary world) when I typed his name in to vaious search engines.

    I feel that the new menu, and direction of Bambara is a refreshing change. Take the time to dine there, I know from my travel experiences staying at Kimpton properties the chefs welcome the opportunity to come to your table and discuss the menu and food in general.

    Bon Appetit!

  6. I have fortunately had the opportunity to dine at a great many places throughout the world and I have always looked forward to returning to Salt Lake to enjoy Chef David Jones’ creations. I have heard the comments about the complexity of his dishes and have had a good chuckle. I guess to some delicate palates and less adventurous souls Jones’ handiwork might seem a little overwhelming, but I have found them to be on a par with the greats of international cuisine.
    My most recent trip to Bambara was no exception. Jones’ new menu is everything I had hoped for and while every restaurant has some inconsistencies, I found it to be quite nice and most definitely in my top five.

  7. It is interesting that the praises for Bambara have been nearly universal AFTER David Jones left and a new chef was brought in. Hmmm….
    I have travelled extensively for my job. I eat out over 200 days a year. I have eaten at nearly even fine dining restaurant in the State many times. I’ve spend months travelling and eating throughout the World. I’ve eaten in 3 star restaurants to street stalls everywhere.
    As to picking on the Chef? Who do you pick on when your only issue is the food? The restaurant is great. The food hasn’t lived up to potential for a long time. Whose responsible for that? I suppose the person who hired the chef, but in the end it is the chef that gets the good to the table.
    Complicated food was big in the 70’s and 80’s. At starred restaurants changes have been taking place world wide. It’s about pure ingredients and dishes that are not so many competing flavors. I was in Michelin restaurants in Amsterdam and Bruges in the last month. They both highlighted simple and seasonal. My preferences may not be the preferences of others, but they do line up with the best restaurants.

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