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SLCene Suggests: Bambara’s new menu

by on May 12, 2014

Every now and again, I get to take my rudimentary understanding of modern cuisine to a gathering of genuine foodies. And while I can’t dazzle anyone with my culinary vocabulary or way around a kitchen, I can certainly appreciate a dining experience that showcases a chef at the top of his or her game.

It’s comparable to my relationship with jazz music. My knowledge is woeful, but I can respect the genre. And I can recognize a musician who has utter command of his instrument.

At Bambara in Salt Lake City, the artist in question is chef Nathan Powers. I’ve been lucky enough to sample much of his food through the years, at a variety of festivals, tastings and cooking competitions, and the man’s style is never boring, offering unexpected treats and treatments of traditional ingredients that make you rethink everything you thought you knew about food.

Chef Nathan Powers of Bambara (photo courtesy Bambara)

Chef Nathan Powers of Bambara (photo courtesy Bambara)

I recently attended a showcase of Powers’ new menu for Bambara; the menu at the downtown restaurant changes regularly to take advantage of seasonal ingredients, so if you want to enjoy the same plates I did, you’ll want to boogie down there quick-like. But rest assured–any changes to the menu you might find in July or August will be well-considered and assuredly tasty.

With a table full of local food writers for various publications and blogs, Powers started by serving some of Bambara’s patented Blue Cheese House Cut Potato Chips, one of the only dishes to continue through the restaurant’s changes in chefs through the years. While tasty, and a must-order any time you’re kicking it in Bambara’s bar, The Vault, the other appetizer was my favorite of the night–the Crab-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers served with garlic-saffron butter were worthy–lighter than expected, bright thanks to the pepper’s red skin, and a fine way to start the proceedings.

(A quick note–my phone takes okay pictures, but there’s no way they do this food justice. My shot of the peppers was so bad, I’m not posting it. The photos that follow are from that evening, so you can see what I’m describing. Suffice to say, a real food photographer would make the plates really shine. Alas, I’m no food photographer.)

The salads on the new menu offer something for everyone. The Ruby & Golden Beet Salad munched by a neighbor looked excellent, and the Baby Spinach Salad comes with Fuji apples, wildflower honey, honey ricotta, honey roast almonds and a honey wine vinaigrette. I went for The Bambara Wedge, a simple combination of butter lettuce, carrots, cucumbers and radishes that is slathered in an amazing Maytag Blue Cheese that blends ideally with slabs of house-smoked bacon. Granted, you could put a plate of just the bacon in front of my and I’d be happy to call it a salad, but this wedge has me convinced to order it again next time.


The entree options made it almost impossible to choose, so I made sure to trade bites with plenty of folks around me. You know, for research purposes.

My choice was a winner. The Seared Maine Scallops, served with a cauliflower puree, wilted baby kale, a cider gastrique, green apple remoulade and more of that smoky bacon was incredible. I’m not much of a kale guy–surprise, surprise–but you throw some bacon in there, and now we have something to talk about. The scallops were cooked to perfection, no easy task as any regular scallop-orderers will tell you–and the cauliflower puree was unexpectedly tasty.

Here’s what the scallops dish looked like, just before I licked the plate clean well before anyone else finished their entree:


Among the other entrees I got to taste, and can definitely recommend: the Riesling-braised Durock Pork Shank, served with asparagus-mascarpone risotto, tempura asparagus and a Meyer lemon asparagus chimichurri; the Seared King Salmon with crab-and-basil mashed potatoes, roasted fennel, shaved fennel-citrus salad and blood orange hollandaise (seriously, the crab mashed potatoes were ridiculous); and the Grilled Filet of Beef, served with leek puree, duck fat roasted fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, Madeira gastrique and black truffle aioli was stellar. My buddy got it cooked medium, and it was delicious. Here’s a look at that one:


Believe it or not, we had room for dessert. How could we resist, given the quality of what came before? And while I can’t remember all the options, I can definitely say I had my mind blown by one particular dessert–the brown-butter ice cream. Oh. My. God. Worth a visit to Bambara just for a scoop of this goodness. The photo might be blurry–that’s because the taste was so good I went cross-eyed with pleasure after the first bite:


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