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Bora Bora

Published September, 2005

In the Scene Magazine

Upon arrival at Bora Bora, our group entered the restaurant while we waited for our driver to hunt down a parking spot. Bora Bora is difficult to locate, unless you know exactly where to find it. The sign is barely visible from the road, perhaps on purpose, and the building facade is somewhat nonchalant. This little gem of a restaurant seems deliberately tucked into obscurity on the otherwise busy Highland Avenue. The owner clearly seeks to maintain an air of mystique and exoticism, like its namesake island.

Let it be noted that searching for parking was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Our party consumed almost an entire bottle of Bonny Doon Zinfandel ($44) before our persevering driver located an empty spot and joined us.

Once we entered the restaurant, however, our lingering parking anxieties melted away. The staff greeted each customer with care and pride. Walk in the door and the friendly bartenders will serve a relaxing beverage. Despite Bora Bora’s lack of a liquor license, they offer an impressive array of beers and wines.

The dining area is separated from the bar and foyer by ethereal white curtains, which provide the sensation of being whisked away to a remote island. There are a little more than a dozen tables and booths, enabling an intimate, yet comfortable and hip setting. Wood carvings are affixed on the bright red walls, and a mellow blue mural on the back wall acts as the focal point of the dining room. Blowflish lamps swim above each table.

The food at Bora Bora can be described as Cal-Polynesian comfort food, and the chefs do not shy away from carbs, meat, calories or flavor. Our table ordered a Tuna Tartare ($9) to start. Although the plate is adorned with flowers, sesame seeds, lavash triangles for scooping, and is awash with color, the tartar itself tastes simple and pure. Made with sashimi grade Ahi tuna, it is tossed in a house specialty Polynesian dressing that hits the tongue with a light sweetness, allowing the tuna to speak for itself. Cilantro finishes the dish, making this an extremely light and refreshing appetizer.

Otherwise, our party went light on appetizers. Although offerings such as chicken ($7) or filet mignon ($9) satay with a coconut-peanut sauce and snow crab cakes ($12) complete with sweet corn, Dijon aioli and Old Bay season appealed to our senses, we hit the entrees with gusto.

A much raved about dish is the baby back ribs ($21) seasoned with Poly-Cajun seasoning, slow roasted and finished with a spicy barbeque sauce. I will be bold enough to declare these ribs are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The perfectly tangy, sweet, and spicy sauce bathes juicy, succulent meat that practically melts in your mouth. This dish is served with a mound of sticky rice.

The garlic shrimp ($19) served on an iron skillet is 10 jumbo black tiger shrimp drowned in butter and garlic. The shrimp have a hint of spiciness which allows them to stand out from your ordinary scampi. This is also served with sticky rice.

We also ordered a chef’s special to shake things up a bit. Scallops, ($26) seared to perfection, are wrapped in bacon and drizzled with a creamy red pepper sauce. It may be a slightly unusual combination, but it works beautifully. The crunchy bacon contrasts nicely with the tender scallops. Despite its richness, the red pepper sauce does not conceal the mild fish flavor but matches its sweetness.

The “stuffed’ filet mignon ($27) was stuffed with garlic, shallots, crawfish, shrimp and parmesan, it is unique; I have never quite tasted anything like it. The beef is certified prime Amish farmed, as the menu boasts. Eating this dish is like unwrapping a present. The delicately fishy, yet garlicky inside stands up to and enhances the flavor of the tender, juicy beef. The sauce was a daily special. However, the cheesy mashed potatoes that accompany the dish are too salty; I could only eat a few bites.

There are a vast array of family sides and individual sides from which to choose. We went with the exceedingly rich creamed spinach ($8), drowned in smoked Gouda and the mac and cheese ($8), with gruyere, gorgonzola, Velvetta and parmesan. Both are scrumptious and put us over the edge!

Despite our gluttony, we could not leave without dessert. The flowerless chocolate cake ($6) was ordinary but the Crème Brulee ($7) is extraordinary. The bottom layer tastes like brownie batter and the upper layer of custard was supremely creamy, silky smooth and not too sweet. Our table agreed it left competition in the dust.

Bora Bora delivers the goods. The food was delicious, the atmosphere relaxing and the staff friendly and professional. After we finished our meals, the charming owner made his way to our table to ensure a memorable end to our evening. Now that I know where to find Bora Bora, I will definitely be back for more.

Bora Bora
3505 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Phone: (310) 545-6464. Hours of Operation: Tuesday- Sunday