Trendy hits South Boulder
SoBo American Bistro sits poised in Table Mesa shopping center in South Boulder like a chic boutique haven at the end of a row of discount stores.
“There’s a lot of potential in South Boulder because a lot of houses are being renovated,” said Stephan Frye, Owner/Manager of SoBo Bistro. “Boulder has become very affluent in how it dines, kind of like a mini San Francisco.”
Frye said a part of his inspiration for opening SoBo was seeing the beautiful Delfina Restaurant in San Francisco.
“People care about the passion behind food,” Frye said.
Both times I visited SoBo, which opened Oct. 29 last year, my guest and I were greeted professionally yet warmly and led immediately to our designated seats.
Once we were seated, the beverage list was plopped in front of us. We stared blankly at the exotic list of cocktails and fine wines; had we been of age, we would have had nothing to do at that moment except buy drinks.
Instead, I used the moment to soak in the ambiance. Sleek, clean lines illustrated the interior of the restaurant. Both modern and classic at the same time, the restaurant offers a relaxing, “formal chic” vibe.
We were served bread – light, buttery, perfect bread – alongside olive oil infused with parmesan, garlic, and rosemary. Whether or not they try to wow you at the start, they do a fine job of it.
Our server came moments later to provide us with dinner menus. Frye said the menu delay is to ensure the customer is not “overwhelmed with menus” at the start.
Our server, Annapurna Betancourt, was friendly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. When asked what she recommended, Betancourt emphasized the seafood. “Our chef worked in Asia and does seafood really well,” Betancourt said.
Executive Chef Scott Clagett is known around the restaurant for his extensive travel history.
“He’s spent his career working in different places in the world. When he does his dishes, they’re going to be the way they do it in that country. If he’s going to do a Greek salad, it’s going to be the way the Greeks do it,” said Frye.
I followed Betancourt’s recommendation and tried the Backfin Crab Salad ($11), which is an appetizer.
The salad was presented as a work of art, with a medley of mango and avocado beneath a layer of crab salad. Inserted into its sides were four taro chips, and surrounding the plate were discs of watermelon radish.
The mango and avocado medley was beautiful, light and refreshing, yet the crab could have come from a can. The taro chips I skipped completely because they reminded me of burnt wood.
Another appetizer, the Rabbit Cavatelli ($12) left me much more satisfied with its rich, salty flavors and delicious sauce. While the portion was small (as most of them are at SoBo), it was hearty enough to stand alone as a meal.
After waiting a considerably long time for our entrées, Betancourt delivered two steaming plates of fish, one tropical and warm and the other woody and welcoming. She set down a Pan Roasted Hawaiian Hamachi ($25) in front of me and an Arctic Char ($22) in front of my guest, Shane Hervey. I took a bite of the Hamachi, enjoying its buttery texture and crispy crust.
The carrot-lemongrass sauce was so delicious I wished there was twice the amount, and the coconut rice added yet another level of sweetness to this exciting assortment of tastes.
I also tried the Char, a more serious dish with darker colors, heartier flavors and earthier ingredients. Considerably drier than the Hamachi, the Char was tasty yet not as enjoyable to eat. Maybe I was biased because the Hamachi had been so good, but something about the tough mustard greens and grapes as garnish caused the dish to fall flat.
After Betancourt whisked away our plates she brought dessert menus.
Ranging from $7 to $9, the desserts at SoBo Bistro are innovative and tasty. Chocolate lovers will likely enjoy the S’Mores ($9). It’s a rich, oozing brownie atop a buttery graham cracker crust, blanketed with melted marshmallows that are served with caramel ice cream in a spun sugar basket.
For those who are not big fans of chocolate, there is the olive oil cake. Topped with a delicious lemon mousse, the cake is wonderfully moist and it’s served with berries and a butterfly cookie.
It is hard to be disappointed at SoBo, especially since the menu is always changing in order to avoid becoming dull.
However, there are a few things worth knowing before going. The first is the price- it costs more money than most restaurants; entrées alone range from $19-$27.
The second warning is for vegetarians. There are no vegetarian entrées and, on the night I brought my vegetarian friend Cassidy Willey to dine, there were just four other items on the menu she could order.
Lastly, expect to stay a while. The service is wonderful, knowledgeable and friendly, but it’s also leisurely. It is a place to relax and enjoy, which may be annoying to some but exactly what others may need.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Lauren Duncan at lauren.Duncan@colorado.edu.