At the old Bongo Room, the home fries were heavenly and the seating tight, leading to sidewalk-side tensions among the faithful. Now Bongo has moved a
couple of blocks down Milwaukee, doubled in size, and started serving dinner. Just the sort of adolescence that makes old friends uneasy. But the new place is soothing, friendly, and tasty. Bongo Room looks to be doing a fine job of growing up.
Black Sesame-Crusted Tuna Startlingly pink, crusted not with the usual black-pepper assault but with nutty sesame subtlety. Served with a bit of fancy salad and two pestos. Normally I'd shun anything reconstituted from sun-dried tomatoes with their gummy tomato-paste taste, but this shockingly fresh version was worth the risk.
Pan-Seared Salmon Big chunk of salmon seared to a caramelized crunch basking on a bed of those fab home fries, with little points of asparagus pitching in. Fleetingly, we wished everything wasn't piled up, 80s style, but were too busy munching to go there.
Slow-braised Lamb Shank Tender (if slightly wan) lamb relaxing on a massive heap of buttery rosemarried mashed potatoes and an extraordinary stack of carrots, simmered to sweet perfection. Homey and filling.
Terrific chewy bread from adorable neighborhood newcomer Red Hen Bread.
Desserts are dished out, charmingly enough, in knee-deep bowls. The apple crisp is one melted buttery bliss, annoyed by slightly grainy ice cream. There's good chocolate cake, though the standard high-density wedge with its raspberry sidekick is getting tiresome. Damn fine cappuccinos served in rotund mugs.
Oven-roasted Pork Loin A perfectly simple roast out on a blind date with fancy-shmancy risotto. Seems like Bongo Room isn't entirely certain which way to go: down-home or downtown. My vote is with the simpler fare.
Bongo Chicken Breast Slightly overdone breast flailing around in a briny broth of canned artichoke hearts, capers, ordinary mushrooms, and lemons. Altogether too acidic and acerbic.
Market Special Delicate tilapia (the night I tried it) oppressed by heavy-handed breading and mismatched with a mound of veggie shards, lightly soyed.
Pan-Seared Crabcakes More crabby, less pasty than the usual pucks, brightened with plenty of peppers and a rim of lovely, lively aioli.