Bambara Has Not Changed in Years but Maybe That's Okay
by Kevin Packer
(Salt Lake City, Utah)
Inside Bambara (from their website)
Bambara's interior is all fun and interest as you enter from a long hallway inside the Salt Lake Monaco Hotel. There is something interesting in every direction that you look. But I have to say that most of it has been there since it opened around 1997 without much updating.
Some of the food offerings share the timeline even though there have been no less than 4 chefs as well. Kimpton Hotel Group which has run the restaurant for this time knows what people like and they've kept the consistency and flavors going strong.
The staff at Bambara's front door is crisp, polite and uber professional. I've never been disappointed at the front doors. Servers at dinner reflect the same. During lunch and breakfast, however,
the staff leaves me longing for the pros that staff the PM shift.
The breakfast food is not their main focus as evidenced by the typical standbys: Salmon Benedict $12, Healthy Egg Scramble $10 with tomatoes and apple smoked sausage (healthy?), and omelets. Nothing to call home about but good as any hotel restaurant.
Lunch isn't much better. The House Cut Potato Chips with blue cheese, which have been on the menu since day one, $6 are not to be missed. Fresh cut chips and excellent imported blue cheese. The Achiote-Masa crusted Calamari is one of the finest fried foods in the valley $10.50. For entrees my favorite is the Southern Fried Chicken salad with grapes, apples and Rocky Mountain Farms clover honey and mustard dressing $10. But the rest of the menu, although good, fresh and flavorful, it's all boring stuff.
The dinner offerings are better. Don't miss the Roasted Corn Bisque which chef Scott Blackeby brought from Dallas in 1997 because it's still as good as that first time I tasted it $8, the Crab stuffed Piquillo Peppers also rate high on my list $13.50 but the price is steep for a lunch portion appetizer. If you're in the mood for a salad this writer only gives high marks to
the the Organic Greens with Champagne Vinaigrette because the rest is standard fare. I'd steer clear of the Caesar though because it's dressing is bland and too lemony $8.50.
Other dinner favorites of mine and my companions are the Homemade Tagliatelle Pasta with peas, wild mushroom-thyme cream sauce. Full of flavor and enthusiasm. Again, chef Jones' (who is still referred to on the website as “new”) fare is less than exciting and maybe that's why he has returned to Log Haven where he stood as captain of that ship for many, exciting and talented years. I really expected the food to reflect his earnest endeavors at the Log Haven but I was disappointed that most of the items were here through both the original Chef Blackerby and then Chef Barker. The Cider Glazed Duck Breast $26.50, which was overcooked and dry the first time but perfect the second time is a risk. The only dish that I recognized as new was also a winner: the Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Puree and long beans is fresh and tantalizing. The scallops arrived still sizzling and perfectly cooked $27.50.
I've heard rumors around town that Kimpton Restaurant Group no longer operates this property but I could find no one to confirm this. The restaurant is still listed on the official Kimpton website but perhaps the leaving of Chef Jones is telling a little story here. It also might be reflected in the staffing of the servers during daytime hours and the lack of training during the transition? But in any case, however stale the menu is, the food is remarkably good almost every time I visit. I always know I will have an excellent dinner meal there.
Hours: Breakfast: Mon-Fri 7am-10:00am, Sat 8am-11am, Sun 8am-12pm
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11am-2pm. Dinner: Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, Fri & Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm and
Sun 5:30pm-9pm Parking is scarce; street parking only. I suggest Valet $4 at the Monaco. Excellent wine list, full bar. All major credit cards accepted. Location: 202 south Main Street. Phone 801.363.5454 Reservations accepted and recommended.