Though I live an old-boot's throw from all the vibrant action in Hyde Park, I'm not often lured in by Bungalow's siren song. One of the reasons I gave Bungalow the shaft was because the menu had become wincingly static. While the butternut squash ravioli with sage infused brown butter ($8) and the lightly breaded calamari with red pepper aioli ($9) were charming to pick at over a lingering late-fall happy hour, the novelty had worn off come early spring. And even though the stuffed portobello mushroom sandwich ($9) will always be a winner, every time I tried to order the lighter-sounding seared ahi lettuce wraps ($13), the joint was out of ahi.
Wedged in a corner patio table, I was overcome with glee on a recent warm weekday evening when I glanced down to see Bungalow's newly spruced-up menu. Though the appetizer list is still crowded with old-school popular kids, they've also enrolled some sexy freshmen--like the puff pastry-wrapped baked brie ($10) and the spiced pecan and lavender vinaigrette-topped spinach salad ($8). After confirming the kitchen was indeed stocked with ahi, my dining companions and I embarked on a voyage to taste the elusive lettuce wraps. Soon, four fleshy tuna rectangles sparkling with a sweet red pepper glaze floated out atop floppy, butter leaf lily pads. Though the pliable lettuce seemed a less apt vessel than the more traditional iceberg to hold an arsenal of sharp carrots spears and red pepper wedges, it took on the task admirably, even when doused in a pool of sweet, garlicky soy.
Clinking our glasses, we washed down the lingering taste of almost raw tuna ("underdone," according to one member of my dining crew, but "just right" by my standards). My Up North martini ($6.50, happy hour)--a frosty cloud of lime juice, 44 North huckleberry vodka, vanilla vodka and mint--complemented the app nicely with a touch of sweet and all the boozy tartness of a gimlet. After some furrowed-eyebrow deliberation, we unwittingly decided to make it a seafood fest--one of us ordered the salmon ($18), one ordered the trout ($17), and I ordered the crab-stuffed halibut ($25). In the past I'd been impressed by how aptly Bungalow's salmon was cooked, but the new version blew the old one away. A golf ball-sized scoop of tarragon-walnut pesto bled oily rivulets down the sides of the crunchy, vibrant pink salmon, pooling at the base of a mound of lumpy lemon-zested mashed potatoes. It was a sight to behold.
My crab-stuffed halibut was less enchanting, considering the high price tag. A relatively small slab of fish concealed what looked like crab cake batter on a Lincoln Log-ish, criss-crossed stack of polenta fries. Though everything was expertly cooked--tender flaky halibut and firm, not-too-mealy grilled polenta--the sauce mucked it all up. The duckling yellow "lemon beurre blanc" seemed like all beurre. The sauce was a river of fatty, tasteless butter that swept up the inherently awesome flavors of the meal in its swift current. Though the smear of inky balsamic reduction cowering on the side of the plate was probably intended for the dish's asparagus, I nudged bites of fish into the sticky vinegar to cut the heaviness of the butter.
The standout entree, by far, was the Hagerman Ruby Red Trout ($17). Two massive fillets of hazelnut-dusted trout high-fived over a heap of the aforementioned lemon-zested mashed potatoes. With only a subtle drizzle of saffron aioli, the lemon in the potatoes was much more pronounced and the trout's rich sweetness shone through. Our server--polite and attentive, though not overly chatty--confirmed that the trout was one of Bungalow's highest sellers.
As I sat on my porch wrapping up this review, with laughter and strumming guitar notes stumbling arm-in-arm down 13th Street, I thought I could feel Bungalow's sultry croon drawing me nearer.
--Tara Morgan plots a course toward Hyde Park.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Bungalow.