Chef Andrew Bell at Bolsa. (Photography by Kevin Marple)

Restaurant Review: Bolsa

It is hard to believe it has only been six long-table years since Bolsa opened. The Bishop Arts District was a grungy area with For Lease signs in most of the windows. Chris Zielke and Christopher Jeffers left their bartending gigs (Zielke was fired) at Hotel ZaZa and “took” Dragonfly chef Graham Dodds with them. They hired Plan B Group’s (Alexander Urrunago, Royce Ring) to restore the old Settles Garage at the corner of Davis and N. Llewellyn. Dodds preached the farm-to-table life he lived. He kept bees and invented the flat bread heard around the town: Twig and Branch. Once they rolled up the metal doors, the crowds descended not only for the food but for the drinks. I mean hand-crafted cocktails. The menu was full of “local,” “organic,” and “farm-raised” ingredients. It seems like only last week I was swatting the flies out of my food. (Remember those hanging plastic bags filled with water?)

Oh, Bolsa you sparked a revolution and for that I am grateful. Your kitchen has been graced by the presence of some talented chefs. Today, it is Andrew Bell (Aurora, Nosh Euro Bistro). He is doing a fine job of carrying the philosophical flame of Bolsa. His chilled venison tartare with a hint of Worcestershire and a creamy quail egg is a brilliant starter. Croquettes of chorizo, goat cheese, and leeks served with a garlic aioli and a subtle dose of rosemary are also worthy. A half quail glazed with a touch of honey and served with elote gives the term “Tex-Mex” new meaning. I’m sure he made love to the pan-roasted tilefish before he topped it with fiddlehead ferns and a light rhubarb purée. The fish was glowing. Our faces blushed from the rush of cracked black pepper buried in a cookie that adorned a luscious lemon panna cotta surrounded with strawberry-rhubarb sauce. So sublime and beautiful. Why do you hire a server who treated me like a Bolsa antigua? Yes, I am over 50, but you don’t have to ignore my table while you hang with the thirty-somethings from the hood. You don’t have to hand me the check before you take my dessert order. You never know when one of those old bags at your table turns out to be a restaurant critic. And writes about your performance. I’m. Just. Saying.