Food is meant to be transportive—taking you to a specific moment, a specific place. At Chicago’s new Bambola, opening September 13, that place is the Silk Road, spanning from Italy all the way to Xi’an, China.
Bambola’s menu, spearheaded by chef de cuisine Alisha Elenz and executive chef Marcos Campos, leans heavily on Turkish, Persian and Indian influences, but flavors come from all over the world: Italy, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Greece are all represented. That might mean you’re digging into turmeric-glazed carrots with smoked eggplant labneh, crispy garbanzos and za’atar. Or maybe you’re ordering midye dolma, which features smoked mussels stuffed with ginger pilaf rice and topped with a cilantro and pine nut crust.
As far as main dishes go, you might opt for the Lao Mok Pa, a banana-leaf-wrapped red snapper with pickled mung beans and allium Hua Juan pancakes. Elsewhere, a 40-ounce dry-aged tomahawk steak comes with house XO sauce, black garlic and green bean salad. To round out your meal, the executive pastry chef Shannah Primiano has created a dessert menu inspired by “sweetmeats,” or the confectionary bites found along trade routes. Here, fruits, nuts, teas and grains take center stage—a nod to the goods traded along the Silk Road.
The touchstones found in Bambola’s food are just as prominent in the drinks, whether that’s a cocktail or a glass of wine. Cocktails such as the Sumac (tequila, peated scotch, fermented orange, beet, sumac and lime) and the non-alcoholic Rose (rose, red shiso and lime leaf) combine ancient flavors in a nod to local beverages found along the Silk Road. The wine list, created by Michelin Sommelier of the Year Colin Hofer, travels the same path, offering bottles from countries like Lebanon, Georgia, Croatia and Slovenia.
Bambola is clearly trying to be a very cross-cultural restaurant, and while the food and drinks do a good job of embodying that vibe, the restaurant’s décor certainly helps as well. The design team has sourced textiles and chandeliers from Italy, as well as antiques from China, Thailand, Pakistan and India, among other countries. Some of those pieces date back to the 18th or 19th century, and could be considered museum-quality.
You don’t typically find your museum-going accompanied by such a creative food and drink spread, though.
Bambola will be open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner and drinks, with brunch coming soon.
Click here to see all the images of Bambola.
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