We're soggy and dirty, and all we're craving is a stiff, salty drink and warm soft carbs. Chef Boo Kwang Kim's restaurant, Dirty Buns, could not have opened in better weather.
We know chef Boo from his previous stint as executive chef at Bastian and at One Street Over. These properties share some investors with Dirty, and from a look at the menu, a Chicago dude food style and excessive philosophy too.
On the menu here are, well... dirty buns, dirty rolls, dirty bites, and sweet and dirty desserts. We're not making these up, and we aren't being repetitive – these are the names of four sections on the menu. Here is some very messy food, best eaten with bare hands and a pile of napkins. Even so, there's sauce running down your chin, fillings slipping out of buns into laps.
When a batch of dirty fries arrives on our table – and every table must have them – you'll marvel at how crisp the spud sticks stay even though they're overcast with a cloud of cheese sauce, house made vegetarian chili, and a drizzle of parsley. Alongside the room's clear favourite jalapeno and tamarind spiked dirty margarita, these are a great way to dry off. When you're scraping up the last bit of the sauce on the plate with the final fry, the bite still has crunch.
Dirty's buttermilk biscuits sadly don't. They're soaked with creamy mushroom gravy topped with sunny side up eggs, but these bog them down into a doughy pile. A tuna tataki seasoned with savoury furikake and spicy soy is drenched in ribbons of romaine. These would be better off as two elements to the same plate. The tuna, tingly and delicious, needs to picked out and eaten for itself. The salad when tucked to one side tastes great, cool with a bright streaks in pickled carrots.
All the buns we try come piled high. All manner of fillings are poured into these buttery cumulonimbi of brioche. There is carb-on-carb macaroni in cheddar-parmesan sauce with breadcrumbs and truffle oil that makes us realise we've never eaten mac n cheese with our fingers before. There's crisp soft-shell crab with pickles and arugula that's too dry, too sharp, lacking full-bodied flavour, until it takes a dip in a smoky, grainy, well buttered Nashville hot sauce that's spoonable on its own. What makes all the buns taste better, we realise with our steak version (topped with caramelised onions, mozzarella, sweet peppers - essentially a philly cheesesteak), is to push the fillings down deep into the split bun with a fork. The piling on is purely for presentation. Our method makes every bun less pretty, but much more palatable, and that might be at the crux of what the kitchen needs to fix. Focus more on the taste and less on Instagram, please.
When the warm, golden, deep room – lined with bricks and chains, a big neon pink “let's get dirty” sign, light wooden tables and delicate carved chairs topped with disco ball – gets a bit crowded, it takes an exasperating amount of arm-waving to get a menu, a drink, or an update on a dish. We chose to cancel our lobster Cobb after an hour of waiting for it, an hour in which we'd asked for it five times. Boo came over to ask how things are; We spoke about how the service could do with a bit of shine.
A bright spot in our evening was a pair of fat baos stuffed with flavourful shreds of lamb, cool raita, pickled cucumber, fried onion, lime, and chimichurri: gloriously messy and delicious. When Boo starts brunch, this with a glass of the light sunny Purple Haze of gin, jamun, wine and bitter will open our meal.
To perhaps save us from further arm waving, Boo rushed over our dessert, called what else but, The Dirty Boo. Here's a waffle, churros, and a doughnut dunked in a billow of whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate. The churros and waffle hold their crunch to the last bite. Not soggy, only dirty – this is a dessert storm we're happy to be caught (and dry) in.
Getting there: 9/A Ground Floor, Trade View Building, Kamala Mills, Lower Parel. Call 24978910 or 84339 88818. Open daily 5pm to 1pm.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in NYC, lives in Mumbai and writes mostly about food and travel for many a publication. She’s a contributing editor at Vogue magazine, and her words have also been found in Conde Nast Traveller, Mint Lounge, Scroll.in, The Hindu, Saveur, The Guardian, and Travel + Leisure, among others. She's crazy about obscure ingredients, and she always knows where to go back for seconds. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @roshnibajaj.
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