THE PLACE: Bowl is chef Larry Dunning’s newish restaurant nestled in the West Street Market. Dunning, chef-owner of the now-closed, much-loved Sezmu, is cooking delicious, inventive fare at Bowl without the fine dining price tag.
THE LOOK: The restaurant itself is Spartan but cozy. The chairs, which appear to be straight from the Sezmu dining room, are comfortable and an upgrade from those hard, wooden ones diners are accustomed to.
There is a large mural painted on one wall of a girl with an upside-down bowl on her head. You order at the counter, but food is delivered and empty plates taken away in full-service restaurant style.
THE MEAL: With a budget of $20 for two people, my husband and I are a little limited in what we can order.
Choosing an appetizer doesn’t fit with budget constraints, but still, the hummus with pappadum crackers (only $3) is a great choice. The hummus is smooth and flavorful – the consistency perfect – and I wish for crudités to continue dipping away long after the crackers disappear.
An arugula salad is garnished with ruby red grapefruit segments, cubed golden beets, shaved fennel and dressed in citrus vinaigrette. The salad is bright and generously sized. Only the freshest greens are plated, and the sweet beets contrast with the sour grapefruit and licorice-flavored fennel.
Spicy sausage with polenta and marinara is plenty of food for $11. The sausage isn’t that spicy. It’s layered atop creamy polenta without that pesky grainy texture and blanketed with flavorful marinara and a smattering of sautéed bell peppers and onions.
The dish is comfort food to the max.
KUDOS: By doing without frills, Dunning has given Reno a restaurant where diners can get fantastic food for reasonable prices in a casual atmosphere. And the menu changes with the seasons, so customers receive produce at its peak freshness and seasonality.
QUIBBLES: Mason jars are what all drinks come in at Bowl, so if customers prefer to drink wine out of stems, they might be disappointed. Portions also tend to run on the smaller side, so those with heartier appetites might order an appetizer or share a salad to accompany their main dishes.
ALTERNATIVES: I’ve never quite gotten around to trying the zucchini “meatballs” with spaghetti squash and marinara but want to before the season changes and spaghetti squash comes off the menu. The wild boar sugo with bowtie pasta and mushrooms also sounds delicious.
RETURN TRIP?: Yes. Spending around $10 for lunch is doable here, although not for every item on the menu. Dinner has its interesting offerings, too, like barramundi with ginger brussels sprouts, carrot vinaigrette and pomegranate gremolata or pork osso bucco with cabbage, acorn squash and apple chutney.