There’s something to be said about a restaurant that has the balls to ask you to pay for bread. One, it’s not typical — at least not in my own experience, in the land of endless breadsticks and cult-worthy brown bread from unnamed chain restaurants that normalized the concept. Two, it better be some damn good bread.
Enter Bambara, tucked away in Hotel Marlowe in Kendall Square, newly helmed by chef David Bazirgan by way of San Francisco. With Bazirgan came a fresh Mediterranean-influenced menu — braised greens with sumac and hummus, confit octopus with sour-cherry clear vinaigrette and smoky eggplant — and yes, bread. It’s Za’atar and seed-sprinkled braided Choereg bread that comes on its own plate with smear of salted whipped honey butter and costs $2.50.
Unsatisfied with the previous bread service at the restaurant, Bazirgan introduced his Choereg, as inspired from traditional Armenian recipes served at his family table. The bread is labor-intensive, ingredients high-quality and Bazirgan is cool with asking customers to spend the extra dough. To be fair, it’s a bakery treat rather than a table fixture — but also thoughtful introduction to a new chef that sets the bar for remainder of the menu when you realize he’s confident enough to ask you to pay for your bread and butter.
It’s too delicate and fluffy to sop up the rich, salty Pastis-saffron broth that comes with the mussels or the dreamy, silky brown butter of the triple cream tortellini with mushrooms — though you’ll want it to. It outshines the (though very delicious) banana bread pudding, which the restaurant also bakes itself. There are many tempting plates (and a fine cocktail program) but the Choereg stands on its own.
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I fantasize about a night at the bar, ripping bits of bread and dipping them in salted butter while enjoying a fruity, floral Habitual Happiness. In fact, maybe I’ll even order two. At $2.50, they’re a bargain.