Sunday, July 26, 2009


Located in the trendy, high-end Hotel Monaco, Bambara is a modern fine dining establishment in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. It has a central, open kitchen as well as an adjoining bar that serves gourmet cuisine at a reasonable price. Once you walk into the restaurant it definitely has the feel of a fine dining establishment but with somewhat of a relaxed edge (a very common feel for fine dining places in Salt Lake City). In the same style as the Hotel Monaco itself, Bambara is outfitted with a funky and modern - yet elegant and classy - decor. Bambara has been a long time favorite of mine for over 10 years. And within those 10 years the position of the executive chef who runs the restaurant has changed a few times over - and hence so has the menu to reflect the individual styles and specialties of each head chef. Within the past year, Nathan Powers took the helm and has been acclimating to Bambara. He began by taking over his predecessor’s menu but slowly incorporated snippets of his own over time. The current menu is now his unique creation and it has been exciting to see and taste the development of his own take on what Bambara means.

There is a list of about 5-6 starters that you can begin your meal with. The blue cheese house cut potato chips is a Bambara classic and has been kept on the menu throughout the years regardless of which chef is running the kitchen – they are a Bambara staple. These crispy, savory, and tangy chips are a great way to start the evening. If you’re looking for a heartier appetizer you might try the crispy fried rock shrimp and calamari which offers some kick served with a spicy remoulade. Also on the menu are a variety of salads. Right now it seems like Salt Lake is in love with beets – every restaurant has their version of a summery beet salad these days. Bambara is no exception putting up a roasted baby beet salad served with blood oranges, goat cheese and pistachios. The roasting of the beets brings out the woody beet flavor that is cut with the sweetness and tang of the blood oranges. The goat cheese and pistachios offer some texture with creamy and crunchy side notes. Beets seem to be ‘en vogue’ right now – but if being ‘in style’ means eating this good…I’m happy to jump on the beet bandwagon.

Interestingly, Chef Powers’ menu also offers what are called middles. These are medium portion sized plates such as mussels or pastas like gnocchi that are offered after the salad course. At one point a hand rolled tagliatelle carbonara was offered. The soft, made-from- scratch pasta paired nicely with crispy, salty pork and a creamy, pecorino Romano sauce. However, this item must not have been very popular as it has since been replaced by a similar fresh pasta served with tomatoes and arugula. This is unfortunate because the carbonara was quite delicious and it showcased the Chef’s ability to take a classic Italian dish and put his own unique spin on it. However, the main entrée items do demonstrate the exquisite skill of the Bambara kitchen in executing dishes such as cast iron roasted Colorado bison with pomegranate au jus and Cabernet braised Angus beef short ribs with truffled macaroni and cheese. The maple brined pork porterhouse chops served with apple fennel slaw and calvados cider butter is a very nice dish that highlights a sweet and savory flavor profile. Served with cheesy grits, it is a very hearty main course. The Chef’s signature steak frites (steak with fries) is also a lovely, classic French meal. You have the choice of a flat iron steak or dry aged New York - and your steak is cooked to order, served with crispy herbed fries, a peppercorn jus and béarnaise…a true classic cooked to perfection.

With a long history of fabulous food, Chef Powers had some big shoes to fill indeed. I’m happy to say that he’s been able to fit his unique menu in without losing the spirit of the restaurant I’ve come to know and love over the years. I look forward to many more years of good eats to come.

Bambara ~ Salt Lake City, Utah

Executive Chef Nathan Powers

Executive Sous Chef Brad Murphy

Bambara on Urbanspoon