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I’m lucky to live most of the year on Chicago’s restaurant row (Randolph Street) and am excited whenever a new restaurant pops up.
Bambola, which features Silk Road cuisine, opened in September 2022. It fuses a mix of Chinese, Indian, Iranian, and Turkish cuisine. I was particularly excited for this one as it reminded me of Spice Market, which used to be in NYC. That restaurant closed in 2016, but its sister restaurant in Punta Mita lives on (and is almost as tasty) at the lively W hotel there.
Anthony’s Take: This restaurant feels sexy and offers a menu of creative takes on dumplings, risotto, baos, and more. Service was good overall, although we did have to wait for over 30 minutes past our reservation time to be seated and our server disappeared a few times. My first glass of wine was corked. It was promptly replaced when the server was notified, but nothing was offered (not even the glass comped) to make up for it. The food more than covers for any service gaffes as every dish we tried was delicious.
Decor & Vibe
When entering the restaurant you immediately feel transported to another place. Dark woods, lots of live plants, and decorative elements adorn every bit of the restaurant. It’s sultry and exotic. You can tell that the owners did not skimp on costs to design this place and the 7,000 square feet are filled with antiques like a 300-year-old Chinese courtyard house as well as modern, cement tiles imported from Marrakesh to create an aesthetic that evokes a sense of wanderlust.
We had a great table facing the open kitchen and were able to watch the team craft each dish. These plates are made for sharing and our server said that we should each pick three dishes. I always want to try everything, so we ended up selecting seven. This was a lot of food and we ended up taking home some Fried Rice and Smoked Lambchetta.
Our first dish was the Whipped Cheese. It’s Greek Feta cheese, farm goat cheese, pistachio gremolata, and aged balsamic honey served with garlic butter naan. A little bit Greek and Indian, it was a nice start to the meal.
Next, we had the Dumplings XO. These are Spiced Lamb Turkish Dumplings with Bambola’s parmesan XO sauce, smoked shakshuka, and mint za’atar. There was a nice spice blend to these without them being spicy.
Shortly after the dumplings arrived, we were presented with the Xi’an Fried Chicken Baos. Steamed buns are one of my favorite foods and Bambola’s did not disappoint. The baos have fried chicken, fermented yuzu kosho, Turkish black lime, white poppy seeds, Szechuan pickled carrots, and Thai basil.
Bok Choy came while we were finishing our baos. The Wok Sauteed Bok Choy with white soy glaze, pistachio and ginger pesto, green shiso, and nigella seeds was one of my husband’s favorites.
Next up was the Fried Rice. The saffron rice was mixed with smoked short rib, mirin-glazed eggplant, grape leaves, smoked corn, golden raisin hot sauce, and topped with a fried egg. It was delicious and a big portion. We took some leftovers home.
The tender, Smoked Lambchetta came while we were digging into the Fried Rice. It’s roasted with spiced golden raisins, pistachios, and braised seasonal vegetables. It reminded me of a pot roast with some exotic spices.
Finally, the Coal Fired Cod arrived. The cod is grilled on their Josper Mangal (an open charcoal grill) with tahini marinade, walnut muhammara, pomegranate seeds, and cilantro. It was tasty but a little overcooked.
Bambola offers a full bar (although the cocktails seemed a bit odd to us), wine, and soft drinks. I had an issue with my first glass of wine, but subsequent choices were good.
Bambola offers a creative menu and a fun vibe. All of the dishes we tried were tasty and we left full. The DJ played a nice mix of music during dinner but it was a bit loud. This is a great place for a group of friends to have a fun night out, but not one to take mom and dad when they’re visiting.
Anthony’s Credit Card Pick: When I’m dining out, I want to maximize my points earned. My card of choice for restaurants and food delivery is the American Express® Gold Card. With it, I earn four Membership Rewards® Points for each dollar spent at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the US. It also includes up to $120 annual credit (up to $10 per month given in statement credits) for Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar, and select Shake Shack locations. Plus, up to another $120 annually (up to $10 per month) in Uber Cash that I can use for Uber Eats. When I’m hungry, this is the card I choose. (Terms apply and enrollment required for select benefits.) Learn more.
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