This past weekend my entire extended family and I piled into the car and headed to Bonda Restaurant (bondarestaurant.com) in Fairfield, Connecticut, to indulge in an unforgettable birthday bash. Four years prior, in October of 2012, we had embarked on a strikingly similar birthday journey in the celebration of my mother’s birthday, but this time we had a game plan. The preceding four years had been spent tirelessly hatching the perfect birthday plot and ironing out the kinks and bugs from our first experience at Bonda. Consequently, this time we were able to celebrate my Mother’s birthday in simplicity and style. We reserved a private, luxurious room in the back of the restaurant, set the menu to it’s most basic and therefore most delicious form, and decorated the tables to correspond with the beauty of autumn. An abundance of candy corn scattered the table, ruby red candy apples were placed strategically in front of every plate, and multi-colored pumpkins, gourds, leaves, and ears of Indian corn lined the linen.
My father and I had spent the hours leading up to the party perfecting every last detail of the decor, and by the time we were finished, the interior of the restaurant seemed to mesh seamlessly with the crisp fall colors outside. As the remaining members of the family filed in, the party began to take shape. Cold champagne flutes began to dance like ballerinas around with room, people worked to make a dent in the seemingly endless supply of candy corn, and some family members even conjured up some early-bird toasts to my mother.
After everybody arrived, we settled into our seats and scanned the succinct menu. The dining options for starters included: a celery root & apple puree, a grilled romaine salad with shaved parmesan, pan roasted sea scallops with a roasted carrot hummus and kale, and a plate of pan seared artichoke hearts, soppressata, and Garrotxa cheese. The entree options included the Bonda Burger with hand-cut fries, a Leek Carbonara with bacon and a poached egg, and Sriracha-brined Fried Chicken with coconut jasmine rice.
I decided on the salami and cheese plate to start, and the Bonda Burger for my entree.
The salami and cheese plate was simple and void of all palatable and visual distractions. The dish was composed of a tight bundle of pan seared artichoke hearts, a translucent stack of Garrotxa cheese, and a narrow heap of soppressata. The artichoke hearts were tender and moist in texture, and robust and bold in flavor. The slivers of Garrotxa were light and porous, and presented a milky, mild flavor to the consumer. The soppressata was succulent and piquant, and as a result it complimented gentle flavors of the cheese. The intended eating strategy to properly enjoy the contents of the plate, was to take in a bite with a little piece of each respective element of the dish. A perfect start to the meal!
The burger was unique in its appearance, but classic in its flavors. When I was greeted by a burger on an English muffin bun I was disappointed, but once I realized the juice saving abilities of the absorbent muffin, that disappointment faded. Atop the unorthodox base lay a hefty, meaty slab of beef coated in a true plethora of seasonings, a thick slice of gooey cheddar cheese, and a mound of sweet caramelized onions. It was accompanied by a smooth roasted garlic aioli & a cilantro pesto dipping sauce. The burger was unadorned by any unnecessary add-ons or accompaniments and as a result its flavors were straight to the point. It didn’t leave you poking around at unneeded vegetables or sauces in order to reach the substance of the dish, it was all substance. The burger was served with a heaping basket of salty, crispy fries.
The two courses were separated by a noteworthy cheese course, to cleanse the palate between dishes. A goopy chimay, a runny brie, a firm manchego, and a pillowy burrata made up the offerings on the cheese board.
To round out the meal, the stellar staff at Bonda surprised us all with small jars abundant with silky vanilla ice cream, a viscous drizzle of hot fudge, and sprinkle of crush peanut brittle. It was the ultimate crescendo to an unforgettable night.
Overall my experience at Bonda was one I would love to indulge in again in the future. The service is superb, the atmosphere is chic but rustic, and the food is not be trifled with. I would give the restaurant ZZZZV – 4 and ½ Z’s – Wonderful!