In serving me dinner last week, Bungalow was unknowingly tasked with pleasing one of its harshest, most vocal critics. I quit patronizing the Hyde Park restaurant nearly two years ago after I'd had a few too many piss-poor servers and as many equally appalling meals. When Bungalow opened in 2007, the ownership billed it as a neighborhood pub, a place where a busy family could get a decent meal. In my opinion, that vision was never realized.
Unfortunately, when new owners took over Bungalow in 2008, they inherited one item that would not have been found in the business financials: a severely damaged reputation and the derision of many neighborhood foodies like myself.
I've been walking right on by Bungalow almost daily for the last two years, but I've recently decided that I'm ready to bury the hatchet. Unlike its previous proprietor, the new owners, mother and son team Carol and Jason Broadwater, seemed to have embraced what Bungalow is, rather than force what it's not. With its year-round patio (flowers in the summer, fires in the winter) and its faux antique look inside, Bungalow is a casual, higher-end food and martini option in the crux of the 13th Street gauntlet. Wine, dine, be seen. Repeat.
The menu itself is like a final lacquer on the whole scene, buffing it out like a highly polished image. Any sort of cohesion has been completely ditched for a proper romp through Mediterranean, Italian and Asian influences--and that's just the starter menu at dinner. Entrees appease palates of every persuasion on the meat-eating spectrum, with vegetarian lasagna at one end, dry-rubbed barbecued chicken on the other and a flat iron steak and prawn surf and turf straddling the uncertain middle. The effect is an imitation of what it may be like to dine a full week in some of the North End's most prized renovations, complete with six burner Vikings and a homemaker just itching to impress guests with an array of culinary skills.
My re-acquaintance with Bungalow began with a dish of lightly fried calamari ($9) garnished by green onions and tomatoes. After a quick toss in a vinaigrette, the dime-sized rings and quarter-sized tentacles all but shed their batter, creating a soggy, oil-bathed mess in which the calamari was buried. We were not off to a good start.
The entrees, fortunately, fared somewhat better. Crab-stuffed halibut ($25) was served impressively piping hot; the halibut firm and cooked until done but not a minute more. Its crab stuffing was less impressive, reminiscent of a dry canned tuna concoction better suited for crackers. Thick polenta fries and asparagus proved sturdy complements, though my dining companion and I both could have done with a smaller pool of the distracting lemon beurre blanc.
The braised lamb shank ($23), ordered on the no-nonsense advice of our server--a spunky individual who not only steered us clear of the spaghetti and meatballs but also was also refreshingly attentive--typified a superlative carnivorous experience. With gentle prodding from a single tine, supple meat fell from the bone, resigned to the task of shifting my opinion of Bungalow in a slightly more positive direction. As for the rest, nothing stood out as remarkable. A creamy, nutty wild mushroom risotto was fine enough, though far too large a pile to get all the way through. Dessert was an overcooked affair: a handful of paper-thin green apples baked to the plate, beneath a blanket of pastry, all doused in caramel ($7).
The question remains: Can Bungalow and I once again be friends? I may need a second date to make final determination. However, thanks to a decent hunk of lamb and an appropriately sassy server, I'll at least be civil the next time I pass by Bungalow on my way down 13th Street.
--Rachael Daigle does not eat her enemies for breakfast.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Bungalow.