At chef Mark Peel's Grand Central Market stand Bombo, six tilting steam kettles are permanently installed on a stainless steel counter for all to see. The cooking contraptions might be an uncommon sight in L.A. kitchens, but they are the backbone of the new project from the former Campanile owner and chef.
"I saw them years ago at an oyster bar in Grand Central Station and I always wanted to do something with them," Peel said at a media tasting Wednesday night. "They're actually oyster steamers, but we're not even using them to cook oysters."
Peel has designed a menu of seafood dishes — from curried shrimp to seared yellowtail to a Seattle-inspired fish stew — that can be flash-steamed in minutes inside the steel-jacketed vessels.
"There are no pans to wash," Peel says of the steamers. "It's fast and it's clean."
Peel developed four broths to infuse his dishes with flavor, including a Mediterranean-style spicy saffron broth; an Indonesian-style curry broth with ginger and lemongrass; an Indian curry that uses a Punjabi chana masala blend; and a vegan broth that gets its umami from dried mushrooms and vegetables.
Bombo takes over the former Lupita's Seafood location on the eastern end of Grand Central, which was the market's resident fish depot. Peel also will be stocking a case of crushed ice with daily retail selections from the same fish vendors he used for Campanile.
"It's important for [Grand Central Market's owners] to maintain the market as a market," Peel says.
In addition to the steamed seafood dishes, the menu features a selection of salads (including a Greek-style tomato salad and a spicy slaw), a few fried items (including curry-infused fried chicken thighs and a cod fish and chips) and a braised beef short rib marinated in an oregano vinaigrette and served with dried mushrooms and mustard greens on egg papardelle.
The most expensive dishes on the menu (the short ribs and the yellowtail) are $13, which makes Bombo a clear departure from the high-end fine dining of Peel's past.
"I've always wanted to do something more approachable and more affordable," Peel says. "When your budget is less you have to get creative."
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Bombo opens today, Thursday March 26 and will be open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through this Sunday, March 29. From Monday March 30 through Sunday April 19, hours will be extended through 6 p.m. Starting the week of April 20, Bombo will open for dinner.
Bombo, 317 South Broadway Street, downtown.