Ta­bles are set with cloth nap­kins and stain­less-steel cut­lery; baked goods to go are wrapped in pa­per or tucked into reuse­able cloth bags. This com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity is ad­mirable, but in the end, Bodega Prime is all about the food. The shop around

Pasatiempo - - RESTAURANT REVIEW - To­matillo

Walk into Bodega Prime at any time of day and you’ll no­tice the en­tic­ing aro­mas drift­ing out of the open kitchen. Look around the small, spare din­ing room and you’ll soon see what’s miss­ing: There’s no plas­tic on the ta­bles or the ser­vice or take-out coun­ters. Ta­bles are set with cloth nap­kins and stain­less-steel cut­lery; the wa­ter jug is ce­ramic, the cups enam­eled; baked goods to go are wrapped in pa­per or tucked into re­us­able cloth bags.

The cold case pur­vey­ing pre­pared foods con­tin­ues the theme — ev­ery­thing from pesto to kim­chi to salsa, from jams to con­fits to corned beef, pick­led shrimp, and smoked trout is made in-house. With few ex­cep­tions, ev­ery­thing is pack­aged in el­e­gant, re­turn­able glass jars or wrapped in plain brown butcher pa­per.

This com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity is ad­mirable, but in the end, Bodega Prime is all about the food. And the food is re­ally, re­ally good.

Bodega Prime calls it­self a deli rather than a café or restau­rant, per­haps be­cause the menu is so sand­wich-cen­tric. Two break­fast op­tions an­chor the stan­dard menu: a Mag­dalena pork sausage “burger” and a scram­bled egg sand­wich. Served on a clas­sic brioche bun, the scram­bled eggs, rid­dled with chives, were moist and fluffy. The op­tional smoky ham added a salty, chewy coun­ter­point to all that sa­vory soft­ness; the

salsa brought some tang. A small lagniappe: As we ate, we watched Figueroa hand-shap­ing a new batch of brioche in the open kitchen.

Daily spe­cials ex­pand the break­fast of­fer­ings. A gravlax plat­ter one week­day morn­ing fea­tured house­cured sal­mon, thin crunchy rye toast from Wild Leaven bak­ery in Taos, ca­per cream cheese, pick­led onions, greens, and two per­fectly poached eggs that held up even when we let them sit on the ta­ble for a while. The sal­mon was beau­ti­fully bronzed, if a lit­tle on the salty side, and the serv­ing was large enough for two.

A Satur­day brunch spe­cial fea­tured moist poached sal­mon with lentil salad and wal­nut-mar­jo­ram pesto. The black bel­uga lentils, en­hanced by uni­formly diced and lightly sautéed mire­poix, held both shape and tex­ture; the pesto com­ple­mented both fish and legumes.

That sal­mon shows up fairly reg­u­larly in the cold case and on the spe­cials menu may have some­thing to do with chef Figueroa’s so­journs in Port­land, Ore­gon, and Seat­tle, where the fish has al­most iconic sta­tus. The chef’s brief bio on Bodega Prime’s web­site notes that she has cooked pro­fes­sion­ally in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia and Colorado as well as in Santa Fe — places not only sym­pa­thetic to the lo­cal food move­ment but also home to many farm­ers and ranch­ers, the source of com­mu­nity-based pro­duce and meats.

We sam­pled a num­ber of the other sand­wiches on the menu. The drunken chicken with peanut sauce, pick­led car­rots, and cilantro paid shy homage to a Viet­namese bánh mì. Served on the manda­tory baguette, it was large enough to share. The much smaller cof­fee-rubbed steak sand­wich fea­tured ten­der, fla­vor­ful grilled chunks of beef topped with an av­o­cado-jalapeño crema and pick­led gar­lic. The tuna con­fit, napped with a tar­ragon-ca­per mayo, does not come out of a can. The BLT, a gen­er­ous serv­ing of crisp smoky ba­con and ripe heir­loom toma­toes, is topped with a very loose and rich blue cheese dress­ing. It’s drippy and messy and al­most more than you want to deal with — but ul­ti­mately worth the ef­fort (and the knife and fork).

Two sand­wiches — the grilled cheese with kim­chi and the ri­cotta with pre­served lemon cher­moula — are veg­e­tar­ian, if not ve­gan-friendly. All but the ched­dar cheese is made in-house. The kitchen is happy to serve sand­wich fill­ings on a fresh green salad if you pre­fer to forgo the bread.

On dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions, a fresh and foamy house­pressed ap­ple cider and black­berry-sage shrub soda en­hanced the drinks side of the spe­cials menu. Sweet­ened with or­ange-clove honey and topped with club soda, the cider-vine­gar-based shrub — an acidic colo­nial-era drink re­cently re­pop­u­lar­ized by, among oth­ers, chef Andy Ricker of Port­land’s Pok Pok — was crisp and re­fresh­ing.

The house-baked goods are also care­fully crafted. The ten­der scones, crisp cook­ies, muffins, and phyllo-based “piz­zas” are worth your at­ten­tion. An in­no­cently la­beled morn­ing bun, filled with fig­bour­bon jam, had us swoon­ing. The jam is avail­able in the cold case should you want to try recre­at­ing the bun at home — or you could just sit in the car and eat it with a spoon.

Bodega Prime has re­cently ex­panded from 23 to 35 seats, with two com­mu­nity ta­bles and a bar of­fer­ing space for larger par­ties. Figueroa is also ex­per­i­ment­ing with Sun­day brunch. To find out when the next one is sched­uled, you’ll need to sign up for the email list in a small book on the counter. Right now, there is no link on the web­site. “We’re old school,” Figueroa laughs.

De­li­ciously so, we’re happy to say.

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