I went to Bambara after a trip to the creey Bodies exhibit at the Science Museum...not the kind of thing you'd want to see and then do dinner, but we were actually starved. It's possible I was prejudiced against Bambara from the start cause I'd wanted to go to dante, but my mom's friend was set on Bambara...so in we walked, and we were ushered to the bar to grab some martinis while we waited for a table, which is when I found out they've got an open kitchen...very exciting.
I think it waqs my first open kitchen sort of watching the guys at Indian restaurants do the naan since becoming a chef myself...They were fast, clean, and then one of them stuck is hands on the grilling meat and flipped it over so another side could sear. Yikes. He was wearing gloves of some kind, so I inched closer and kept staring before deciding they were probably just standard latex gloves...adn if so why would they not melt?
We're seated and we order. i start munching focaccia and wheat from the bread basket--better than average breads, fairly dense with thick crusts. The focaccia was salty and oily, but in a good way...
We started with the roasted beet and hazelnut salad (with goat cheese, watercress, adn tangerine vinaigrette)...Quarter sized slices of red beet rested atop butter-yellow shapes, indistinct and slightly confusing. Not carrots, not seared tofu batons, not...well, not much is that color yellow. Golden beets? I offered. Taste confirmed they were. The salad was adequate--tangerines were not evident in the too-oily vinaigrette. The golden beets had minimal flavor and the red beets somewhat better. I guess it's difficult to have an okay beet salad when the last beet salad you've had was the one here, which was flavored much more to my liking and where the quality of the beets, greens, and dresing were overall better.
But then when the orders came, they mixed up my mother's meatloaf with a second order of halibut (which, she was informed, was good). Service was slow and generally confused-slash-indifferent. The mushroom tagliatele I got was plentiful, and plentifully creamy, but the mushroom flavor was lacking. I swallowed my way through half the mushrooms in the dish jut to get it to taste like something (hate the texture, like the flavor)...
Dessert was fairly sad. We asked for the profiteroles, but were told they ran out. We'd also ordered a pear-cranberry crisp which was large enough for 4 to share. The pears were unskinned, slightly hard, and not very flavorful...not sweet enough to balance the tartness of the cranberries. The streusel, the best part of the dish, disappeared within the first minute, leaving us with a bottomless ramekin of tart cranberries and forgettable pears.
Expensive and forgettable, overall, would apply to the gaudily decorated Bambara, whose charms of an open kitchen and a somewhat exciting martini list (I got to have a basil-cucumber Hendricks drink that tasted not a morsel like basil) don't make up for the wussy flavors, generally un-imaginative fare and lackluster service.