November 13, 2009


The niners beat the bears (in a heart attack inducing finish) and it was date night. How could this evening get any more magical? I’ll tell you. A fresh, thoughtful, earthy meal at Bacar.

I called the restaurant around 3:00pm, when most begin answering their phones for dinner service, and made sure to forewarn of my dietary needs. They had walu on the menu (a meaty and juicy white fish) and I asked them to please save me a cut. I also made sure to have a few veggies left aside so that they were not parboiled in advance.

Tip: In many kitchens, prep includes blanching or parboiling the vegetables in salted water, leaving few green options. But if you call ahead, you usually can secure a handful of healthy nibbles for your meal.

Back to the restaurant – it is quite big (two floors) and urban feeling, but cozy due to its warm lighting and comfy booths. I was delighted to see that the wine list not only included your standard bottles, half bottles, and glasses, but tastings as well – how decadent.  So yes, I had a tasting of two white wines, an Albarino and a Sauvignon Blanc, making the start of my dining experience all the more entertaining and well, boozy.

Then the main course. When the waiter arrived at the table and I attempted to launch into my dietribe (that’s wordplay, folks), he sweetly interrupted and said, “Yes, no sodium.” Always a comforting start to know your call earlier in the day was passed on to kitchen and front of the house staff.

The waiter then assured me that the chef would happily accommodate my needs and asked if there anything in particular that I wanted from the menu. The fact that I was given options, and was not beholden to just one entrée, was very impressive. I’ll have to take them up on the offer some other time. But for this particular evening, I stuck with the walu. It looked delicious and I figured it was a safe bet.

As for the result – well, first of all, the presentation (see picture above) was meticulous. Clearly, this was not a flavorless piece of fish thrown on a plate. Roasted brussel sprout leaves and simply sautéed chantarelle mushrooms cushioned the walu which was delicately cooked with a strong smoky flavor, possibly from the use of liquid smoke or an actual smoker. The whole dish was then topped with a festive tapenade of what I thought was garlic and parsley. There was a burst of citrus flavor and of course, the always lively taste of fresh herbs. I realized by the third bite, however, that the garlic bits were actually olives and unless they were specially cured without salt, I’m pretty certain this beautiful topping had sodium.

Now, I write this fact to exhibit the importance of going over all the details of your dietary needs with the waiter, even if it seems repetitive and annoying. Do not be afraid to SPELL IT OUT. It took me six years to understand where sodium secretly lurks, so I surely cannot expect people to remember to look at the back of a bottle while trying to manage and cook in a busy kitchen.

Now if you’re thinking, damn, Bacar failed the sodium girl test, I assure you they did not. The care with which they treated my meal was obvious and there are multiple menu items I can order in the future, which is not often the case. In addition, when I ordered sorbet for dessert, the waiter rushed back to warn me that there were a few pinches of salt in the sorbet, demonstrating that they clearly understood my needs and that the olive situation was simply a blip.

And now, just in case you forgot what it looked like…one more look at the walu masterpiece.

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