Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bambara, Kendall Square, Cambridge

Kendall  Square has been making food news for a while now.  It seems that every few months a new place opens touting inventive menus and critically acclaimed chefs.  One might assume that prior to the past few years Kendall Square was a veritable wasteland for food.  One would be wrong.  A few nights ago I was invited to dine at Bambara- a New American cuisine style restaurant located within the Hotel Marlow that, guess what, isn’t new at all. 

Quietly plugging along serving locally sourced ingredients combined into fresh dishes that truly showcase the bounty and beauty of this region, Bambara is producing consistent and delicious fare.  What I loved about my meal there was that they aren’t reinventing the wheel, you won’t find crazy molecular gastronomy here, but they are serving dishes with incredible flavor and creativity.  

Starting just with appetizers- their Warm Lobster Sliders and their Chickpea Fries, and you can already see the differences.  I can hear you though already- c’mon a lobster slider- this is Boston, we’ve been there and done that!  Let me tell you- you haven’t been there and done that- not like Bambara’s!  Toasted, buttery brioche baked into a top split roll, and jammed with as much butter poached lobster as possible- let me rephrase that- butter on top of butter….on top of lobster.  It’s finished with an herb slaw which cuts through all of that buttery goodness and adds these beautiful fresh
flavors depending on the season.  This isn’t your average ho hum lobster roll, if you can ever really call a lobster roll ho hum and I’m not sure you can.  Chickpea fries sound innocent enough don’t they?  They actually maybe don’t even sound that good- those mealy chickpeas made into fries?  What’s the big deal?  The big deal is the Chef at Bambara is making this silky puree of healthy chickpeas, forming it into long rectangles, chilling them and frying them.  The result are ultra crispy fries that have wonderful textural contrast with that chickpea filling.   They are served with an aioli dipping sauce that is lovely, but those fries can be eaten on their own- lord knows I was addicted!

On the lighter side, Chef Jay Silva is rocking his salad game with options including an Heirloom Tomato Salad and a Boston Feta Salad.  The Heirloom Tomato Salad is everything you’d hope for- gorgeous slices of perfect tomatoes surrounding an orb of creamy burrata, and covered under a shower of fresh basil and aged balsamic.  Then the unique twist- polenta croutons.  Croutons may be pretty boring on their own, but the polenta brings a whole new level to the game.   A similar feeling to the polenta fries, these had a gorgeous soft interior found once breaking through the crisp exterior.  I loved the contrast of the textures between these, the ripe
tomatoes and the impossibly creamy, oozy burrata.  If you’re looking for a more traditional salad, give the Boston Feta a go.  Boston Bibb Lettuce, topped with a perfect mix of cucumbers, roasted peppers (sweet and hot), Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, a bright and acidic lemon vinaigrette and ample chunks of feta.

Let’s talk entrees.  It is Boston, so seafood is a
major component to satisfy our love of all things ocean.  How about a gorgeous piece of braised cod, perched above fresh spears of roasted asparagus and shrimp enhanced risotto, and  finished with a pancetta broth?  Or a mix of Pork and Clams combining smoked pork loin with native clams over perfect gnocchi with fava beans and a roasted garlic sauce?  The cod was so perfectly cooked, it surrendered to the fork without any resistance allowing huge chunks to be matched with the textural contrast of the creamy risotto.  The flavors of this dish, as it flowed between decadent and light were a fantastic spring/early summer contrast.  Now the smoked pork loin paired with fresh steamers was
my favorite of the entrees tried.  Surf and Turf can mean so many things to different chefs but this was a truly great interpretation.  Clams have such a beautiful salty and earthy flavor, pairing them here with a deep smoke from the pork brought together the true ideas of land and sea.  I immediately felt like I was both sitting in an ocean village and that I was at a back yard bbq- both are extremely happy places.  The backdrop of gnocchi shouldn’t be forgotten either.  Pillowy perfection playing the perfect supporting role and the best vehicle I can think of to sop up that roasted garlic sauce.

Bambara delivered in every category, their food was well put together and showed the ability to push the limits of the box to include ideas that aren’t the norm.  The flavors will dazzle the palate and each dish is well executed.  Bambara isn’t an it place, but that just means you can actually sit and enjoy your meal without being rushed or jostled. Add it to your list of must go's in Kendall Square.

1 comment:

Kristen said...

this place definitely flies under the radar! Everything sounds really good!

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