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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bamboo Fire Cafe is Heating Things Up in Delray

     Downtown Delray has really emerged over the past couple of years as a veritable nighttime option.  While it doesn't have the notoriety along the same lines of South Beach or Las Olas, it stands as a solid option for those in North Broward and Palm Beach, as an entertainment outlet after a long week.  While most of the main drag along Atlantic Avenue is filled with a litany of bars and overpriced trendy dining choices, the area does boast a couple of great finds.  Coffee District is a coffee shop by day, that becomes a fun hangout at night, which offers a huge selection of quality craft beers.  Dada is another cool after dark scene, a funky house turned restaurant, offering live music and cocktails.  My most recent discovery though, and now area addiction, is the Bamboo Fire Cafe.
     Just a few blocks off Atlantic, Bamboo Fire offers flavorful Carribean food for all tastes.  The couple that runs the restaurant, Beverly and Donald, are genial and hard working.  I'm consistently impressed by their memory of each of their patrons.  They are so cordial and welcoming, you feel like you're part of the family.  The inside area is casual and colorful, with fish nets, a rainbow of hanging ornaments, and an eclectic assortment of furniture.  The space is a bit cozy, with room for only a couple of tables, so come early or plan to eat outside (assuming they have room there either).
   While you peruse the menu they bring out some complimentary jerk meatballs to nibble on.  A perfect bite of slightly spicy, moist meat. As you decide what to order I'd recommend cleansing the palate with some Calypso lemonade, a special concoction that tastes like lemonade spiked with almond syrup and perhaps a hint of vanilla. 
When you're ready to order be sure to start with some grilled conch (either the appetizer or the dinner).  Yes conch fritters are more common in South Florida, but they often mask the flavor of this sweet, white mollusk (although you can still get an order of them here if you really want).  At Bamboo Fire they pound the conch fiercely to ensure it is extra tender and thin.  Then, the entire piece gets grilled and topped with garlic, lime, and capers.  Whether you're a seasoned conch eater, or even if it's your first time trying it, you won't be disappointed.  They prepare the shellfish with such dexterity and brilliance, it is a touch chewy but not at all rubbery, with strong garlic flavor complimenting the meat.  One of the best preparations of fresh conch I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying.
The roti are another good way to delve into the menu.  Not that I'm exactly a roti expert, but I believe it is a paratha roti.  Either way, the flaky pastry is soft and chewy, making the perfect vessel to tear off a piece and scoop up some filling.  I personally enjoy the pork, which is very tender and comes pulled.  By itself it can be a little bland, but they give you a bowl of the sauce it is cooked in, and this seasoned, almost soy like mixture adds quite a bit of flavor.  If you're looking for some real heat, they also have a hot sauce bar, where you can pick your poison to spruce up your plate.
The mac and cheese, gets a bit of a revamp here as well.  Depending on what seafood is seasonally available, you can get shrimp, or even lobster.  They use cheese tortellini for the base, add a gooey cheesy sauce, and then bake the dish so it becomes just a touch crispy.  Definitely different, one of the more creative and tasty ways to enjoy a dish ubiquitously found on menus everywhere.
My friend recently became enamored with their coconut shrimp too.  Don't worry, they would never give you a mediocre I-just-defrosted-this-from-the-Publix freezer kind of quality.  Served butterfly-style, the succulent shrimp meat is covered with an ultra crispy coconut breading, and then served with a tangy, sweet, kind of zingy, dipping sauce.
Don't forget to see what their specials are.  The first time I went, they offered a zesty curried crab special.  It wasn't exactly easy to eat, and by the end I had curry sauce all over me (please don't order this on a first date), but when you could extract that luscious meat (inserts my cries of jubilation), it worked really well with the sauce.
All of the mains also come with family-style servings of sides.  In addition to an okra fried rice, you also get fried plantains and a colorful salad.  The salad is a mixture of fresh greens topped off with minced tomatoes and mango.  It's bright, punchy, and a nice complement to some of the heavier aspects of the meal.   Living in South Florida maduros are a staple on many a menu and there is nothing worse then receiving a hard desiccated pile of charred plantains.  Hence, I appreciate that their plantains are, in my opinion, ideally prepared, wonderfully crisp outside with a moist, almost candied, and tender, mush inside.  
I've heard their rum cake is equally sensational, but full disclosure, I have been far too full after the main meal to ever try it myself.  Bamboo Fire Cafe has me seriously craving conch, and they manage to make Carribean accessible for even a spicy-intolerant wimp such as myself, without sacrificing flavor.  The food is made with lots of love, and is always fresh and delicious.  To check out this wonderful, unpretentious find for yourself, head to:
  149 NE 4th Avenue
  Delray Beach, FL 33483

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