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RESTAURANT REVIEW

Valiant Ventures in Food Fusion

Bamboa Resists Cuisine Categorization

By Scott Lee

Bomboa

35 Stanhope St., (617) 236-6363

Hours: Tue.-Fri. 5:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., Sat. 5:30

p.m.-midnight, Sun.-Mon. 5:30-10 p.m

Prices: $20-$27. Three-course prix fixe for $30.

When Bomboa opened in November 1999, it billed itself as the pinnacle of French-Brazilian cuisine. The last time I remember, the Portuguese colonized Brazil, not France. The only two things that these countries have in common is the fact their great soccer teams met in the world cup a few years ago. The traditional paradigms of French fusion cuisine -- French-Vietnamese, French-Cambodian, French-Japanese -- have been successful, but it just seemed like another dubious attempt at fusion that would not get published in any physics journal, or, for that matter, any food publication. Nonetheless, the hype around the restaurant the last several years has grown considerably: an Award of Excellence by the Wine Spectator, a top-five-notable Nuevo Latino restaurant in the country by Bon Appetit, and a Top 10 Best New Chefs award by Food & Wine Magazine.

We began our meals with the baby green salad, which consisted of mango, cashews, hearts of palm, and a champagne vinaigrette. This simple dish was well prepared, and the eclectic combination of ingredients functioned well in texture and taste. All the same, this dish seemed neither French, nor Brazilian, nor a fusion of either cuisine.

The mussels with saffron white beans, chorizo, lime, and chicharron, however, were exquisite. Normally, a dish of mussels comes loaded with shells -- so many that they are there simply for presentation. Once the shells are gone, there really is nothing much left to eat. The Bomboa was pure meat and no shells, simmered in a fatty sauce that was rich in bacon flavor and cooked perfectly. I’ve always despised chicharron as some nasty accoutrement to Latin cuisine, when nothing else is left on a pig to cook. It worked extremely well here, though.

The entrees we sampled included a pan-seared artic char, a Scandinavian fish with a trout-like flavor, that was presented with a corn tamale, arugula, and curried lobster broth. The first of these, a small Mexican tamale, was a mini-dish by itself. With a gelatinous core, it melted in my mouth and was as good as all the tamales I’ve had in Mexico and Ecuador. The broth was also superbly prepared, with an aroma that that wafted throughout the whole restaurant. The other main course, a steak frites, was much more French, but the chimichurri sauce didn’t really do it justice; there was only a small dab of it sitting in a small cup on the side. The legions of French fries covering the steak also were somewhat unpalatable. As far as a hangar cut goes, this was very average.

The dessert entrees were very impressive. Chocolate buneulos with egg natilla and fresh fruit was presented in a stunning matter, with a custard congealed within a fragile egg shell. The taste likewise was unusual, yet flavorful. The coconut bread pudding was created with caramelized mango and was also successful in presenting fusion cuisine.

Each restaurant in Boston feels the necessity to categorize its cooking -- fusion of this cuisine and that -- but the cuisine at Bomboa does not fit any category. The use of Asian ingredients with South American ones, combined with French techniques, defy any singular category. Therefore, it is silly that Bomboa feels the need to present itself as such for marketability. The food was excellent irrespective of the multitude of influences that combined in its creation. The prix fixe menu is probably the best bargain in the city of Boston for such outstanding cuisine. The sleek steel minimalist dÉcor and superb service are only the icing on the cake, or the natilla on the pasteles.