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7 Things to Know About the New Bambara Menu

By Scott Kearnan  |  November 17, 2016
Credit: Courtesy of Scott Gardner/Bambara

We spend a lot of time scouring the city for the latest restaurants to explore around Boston, but sometimes long-standing favorites are worth a revisit — especially when there's a new chef in the kitchen. This month, Cambridge restaurant Bambara rolled out its fall menu, the first by chef David Bazirgan. If you haven't visited in awhile, this new Mediterranean-inspired direction is reason enough to stop by. But first, here's what you need to know. 

25 Edwin H Land Blvd., Cambridge; 617-868-4444

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  • Credit: Courtesy of Scott Gardner/Bambara

    This is a grand homecoming for chef David Bazirgan.
    Barzigan is a native New Englander who entered the restaurant industry by washing dishes in his hometown of Newburyport. After studying at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, he worked through a number of renowned Boston-area eateries, then in 2003 moved to San Francisco, where he spent 13 lucky years leading kitchens at cool spots like Dirty Habit. He returned this summer to replace Bambara's outgoing executive chef, Jay Silva, and mostly maintained the existing menu while he settled in. This just-launched menu is the first that Bazirgan designed for Bambara himself, and it has his unique style all over it. 

  • Credit: Courtesy of Scott Gardner/Bambara

    The chef cut his teeth with some of Boston's best. 
    Before moving to San Francisco, Bazirgan honed his skills at some of Boston's top restaurants. He spent time at Stan Frankenthaler’s late, great Salamander and Todd English’s original Olives. He was also chef de cuisine at star restaurateur Barbara Lynch’s No. 9 Park, where he helped craft the first of its acclaimed seven- and nine-course tasting menus. It was in working with English and Lynch, in particular, that Bazirgan finessed his pasta-making skills. On Bambara's new menu, you'll find that talent expressed in plates like this fusilli with duck confit, green olives, pecorino cheese and chickpeas. 

  • Credit: Courtesy of Scott Gardner/Bambara

    The menu veers toward the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.  
    Many of Bazirgan’s plates pull inspiration from the Eastern Mediterranean, with spice blends like za’atar, baharat and ras el hanout in various dishes, and ingredients like Urfa chiles and harissa adding a punch. "The flavors on our menu are definitely rooted in my background," says Bazirgan. "My father’s side of my family is Armenian, and I’ve been experimenting with a lot of Mediterranean spices in the kitchen over the last decade." That flair is evident in dishes like this Spanish octopus, given a confit preparation in olive oil for five hours, then seared in a cast-iron pan to lend a slight crust to the otherwise tender interior. It's served with eggplant, sour cherries and a celery vinaigrette. 

  • Credit: Courtesy of Scott Gardner/Bambara

    The restaurant is rethinking bread service.
    Bazirgan puts his own spin on Bambara’s bread service as well, offering his own take on choereg, or Armenian Easter bread, to start the meal. Flavorful and slightly sweet, it's sprinkled with za’atar and served with whipped honey butter (for a nominal $2.50).

  • Credit: Courtesy of Scott Gardner/Bambara

    There's some spectacular comfort food. 
    In the heart of the fall season, one of our favorite dishes is the monkfish bouillabaisse. Bazirgan makes a fish stock for the base, then adds some aromatic veggies, lobster and other seafood, potatoes, rouille croutons and some Maine uni to give it a rich, briny quality.

  • Credit: Courtesy of Scott Gardner/Bambara

    There's a strong emphasis on local sourcing. 
    Barzigan loves to connect New England farms and producers, turning to Beach Point Oysters in Barnstable and gathering organic produce from Eva's Garden in South Dartmouth. The sources are local even when the culinary inspiration comes from far-flung locales; for the Filipino- and Japanese-influenced fluke ceviche with calamansi, vinegar, white soy and coconut milk, the fluke comes right from Wulf Fish on the Boston Fish Pier. Even the plates themselves are local, with custom pieces from chef and ceramist David Becker (Sweet Basil and Juniper) and local potter Jeremy Ogusky in rotation.

  • Credit: Courtesy of Scott Gardner/Bambara

    Bazirgan is doing double duty.
    The chef's cooking extends beyond the savory menu items. He’s also leading Bambara’s desserts, creating sweet-tooth satisfiers like blackberry preserve beignets and banana bread pudding (pictured) with dulce de leche ice cream and toasted almonds.