A miffed lady with a big hairdo stomped inside and asked as patiently as she could if they could get something, anything, to snack on while they waited. Donald, looking fully underwater, could tell her only that their meals would be out soon. In an act of defiance, she grabbed a jar of peanuts from the bar top and brought a big handful outside.

By the time we settled into a square, white bowl of iguana soup ($5.95), we were ravenous. "How is it?" a harried Beverly stopped by to ask on her way to another table. The thick pieces were reminiscent of swordfish, but the flavors were monotone, like stringy white meat. Pieces of the reptile (skin and all) soaked up a spicy but gummy stew anchored by some oblong dumplings. I much preferred the golden crab, two clusters of meaty legs simmered in a Jamaican-style spicy brown sauce ($16.95). The curry had seeped into the shell, creating a fragrant, heady aroma; wonderful stuff, even if extracting the flesh was messy work. Across the table, my friend's dish of braised rabbit ($12.95) came rubbed in sweet and peppery Chinese spices — the tender flesh ceded from the bone with ease. He had requested a little bit of hog to go with his rabbit, so his plate came with a bit of both. "I'm not even sure which animal this is, but it's delicious," he said as he passed me a piece of the exceptionally tangy meat.

By the end of our meal, though, the scene had deteriorated: While a reggae band playing outside kept the mood a little light, most of the tables had empty drinks, no food, and a cloud of steam building overhead. Two or three parties sat among a mess of finished plates scattered like shrapnel across the tables. After an untold wait for his check, one older man with gray hair turned to his wife and said, "I feel like I'm being kept prisoner." In an effort to make things right, the kitchen started handing out plates of rum cake for free. But after an hour of sitting at our table after dinner, my friends just wanted to pay and leave.

Joe Rocco

Location Info

Map

Bamboo Fire Cafe

149 NE Fourth Ave.
Delray Beach, FL 33483

Category: Restaurant > Caribbean

Region: Delray Beach

Details

Bamboo Fire Café 149 N.E. Fourth Ave., Delray Beach. Open for dinner Wednesday and Thursday 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., Friday 6 to 11:30 p.m., and Saturday noon to 11:30 p.m. Call 561-749-0973, or visit bamboofirecafe.com.

What Beverly and Donald have in Bamboo Fire is a boutique restaurant that operates best when the couple can devote attention to each table. "We wanted to be like one of those secret restaurants that would take place in fields or basements a few years back," Beverly told me recently over the phone. It's a great concept, but I'm afraid it's no longer a secret: As more people learn about the stellar, home-cooked food and the low prices, the place is bound to grow. The question is whether Beverly can continue walking her kitchen/dining-room tightrope for bigger crowds.

Even as a first-time restaurateur, Beverly knows she needs an answer to that question. "I realize now I need to be out in the front of the house," she says. "We have to maintain the quality of the food, but we also need a semblance of decent service. I don't want to be known as one of those Caribbean places that are too laid-back."

With time, hopefully Bamboo Fire will find that right balance. Too laid-back? No. But just laid-back enough.

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