If you're among the many Angelenos who've missed eating Mark Peel's food — and seeing the veteran L.A. chef on the line — since Campanile closed, you have someplace to be this Thursday. That's when his new restaurant Bombo officially opens in downtown's Grand Central Market.
Peel is among the newest wave of restaurants opening in the historic food court — perhaps an unlikely place for a chef who cooked not only at Campanile but also at Michael's, Chez Panisse, Spago and Ma Maison. But then again, maybe it's not so surprising. Grand Central is one of this town's hottest "restaurants," at least according to Bon Appetit and the seemingly permanent crowds filling Grand Central these days.
Peel's newest project is set pretty much right in the middle of the market, in a spot that was previously home to Lupita's. As we previously reported, it's a seafood stand, with a menu of dishes that can be quickly cooked in the six shiny kettle drums that line the counter. There are also salads and drinks and a few other dishes (fish and chips, fried chicken) that aren't pulled from the steaming pots. And for those who prefer to cook their own fish, Bombo also has a case filled with fish and shellfish to take home.
Bombo had its first soft-open run last week, when a Dutch film crew showed up, filming part of a documentary about Peel's long career. (Peel's brother-in-law is from Amsterdam and is part of a group of Dutch investors in Bombo; the documentary is scheduled to be shown at the Berlin Film Festival.)
As a camera operator filmed the rising steam from the kettle drums, Peel worked the line behind the counter, stirring batches of curried shrimp and fish stew, then dropping them from the kettles into waiting bowls. The kettles, made by Solaris Steam, have tilting levers and faucets for the hot water that cleans the kettles between dishes — the faucets don't run stock or demi-glace, although that would be very cool.
Among the dishes that Peel and his crew cook in the steam kettles are the curried shrimp, with peanuts, chile paste and kabocha squash (served on steamed rice with flax seeds); a Seattle fish stew, with clams, mussels, shrimp and cod steamed in lobster broth with bacon and potatoes; steamed mussels with curried shrimp cream on egg pappardelle; steamed clams and pork sausage with lobster broth and chick peas on pasta; and a steamed fish of the day on kombu with mushroom broth and Napa cabbage.
As for what's in the refrigerated case, the other day Peel had fresh seafood from downtown's IMP (International Marine Products) and Taylor's shellfish in Seattle, including black cod, mackerel, yellowtail, salmon and sea bass.
The downtown project has been a long time coming for Peel and his partners — they began talking to the folks at Grand Central Market a year and a half ago. And for those who've waited patiently for Peel to be in his chef's whites again, it's a particularly welcome addition to downtown's thriving food scene.
Bombo at Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles.