We arrived and the first item we notice was the incredibly cool vibe. This place was alive with energy.
We were escorted to the rear and a large round table. As a head’s up, the entire party needs to be present before seating, but hanging at the bar is fun. While this was a great location for conversation, the table was just too large for four people (really a 6-top) and we asked for a smaller, more intimate table and the hostess was quick to oblige.
The server informed us that everyone on the staff have been there since the beginning, a good sign. She knew the menu very well, made recommendations, and suggested we order in stages, which we did. For the first phase we ordered the snapper tartare, the yellow fin tuna wraps and the Virginia oyster sliders. She informed us that the sliders and the tuna wraps were served as a group of three and since as a group of four, we asked if they could make four versus three. She told us they could not. Huh? I just do not understand why restaurants, who have created a sharing menu, do not align the number of items on the plate to the number of guests at the table. The kitchen cannot fry eight instead of six oysters, cannot make four instead of three beds of lettuce and scoops of tartare? But they decided that they would not comply with this simple request. Maybe it is a POS system limitation…then change the POS. Rant over.
Back to the food. The first round had two outstanding dishes and one that was disappointing.
The Florida Red Snapper Tartare was served with red onion, cilantro and leche de tigre (a Peruvian marinade). Everyone at the table loved this dish. The fish was fresh and the flavors of the marinade were wonderfully outrageous. I would rate this a 10.
The Yellow Fin Tuna Wraps were served on a bed of Bibb lettuce and accompanied with dashi aioli, smoked peanuts and yuzu pickles. Again, everyone in our group loved this dish. It was very different from the tartare, with the peanuts offering a great crunchiness and the aioli a lightened creaminess. Make sure you squeeze some of the lime wedge onto the dish, really kicks up the flavor profile. I would give this a 10.
The Virginia Oyster Sliders were served on a soft roll with lettuce, tomato, pickle and datil pepper aioli. We were all somewhat disappointed in this dish. While visually appealing, the centerpiece of the dish, the two fried oysters, lacked anything other than fried coating. The other ingredients were great but it did not give any oyster flavor, whatsoever. Because of the lack of true oyster-ness I can only give this a 4.
For phase two we ordered three additional items.
The Roasted Mushroom Empanada was served atop a black garlic aioli. The first item you should note is the tense in the title. This is a single empanada, sliced in half and nestled in the aioli. Given our request for four items in phase one, we were somewhat surprised our server did not mention this was one empanada, we were now four people sharing one empanada. Be careful and let the empanada cool, as it arrives with a piping hot mushroom filling. While the mushrooms were very good, they were scant in ratio to the breading. The half of a half I ate was was pretty good, but could have been so much better if there was more filling and less coating. I will give this a 6.
We asked that if the Crispy Brussels Sprouts could be prepared without bacon and they could. They were tossed in a spicy Thai sauce and served with a slice of lime. Even without the bacon, these were very good, while I thought they were a little on the burnt side. A few seconds less in the fryer would have been my preference. Even with that I would give this a 6.
The Blue Crab Fried Rice was served as an Omurice Omelet, with a drizzled Thai lime Nam Jim sauce. While others at the table thought this was great I thought it lacked continuity. The omelet is supposed to “explode” when sliced, creating a visual wonder, ours was merely soft cooked eggs. The crab rice was overly-ladened with scallions or onions and the sauce overwhelmed everything. This was a great idea, but the flavors did not work at all together. I can only give this a 4.
While this review gives somewhat disappointing aspects to some of the dishes, I will absolutely return to Bully Boy. It just felt the kitchen lost a little focus during the prep stage. The ideas and creativeness were evident, the execution just needed a little work. Most importantly if you brand yourself as a tapas-style sharing restaurant, make sure you have the flexibility to allow the guests to share full portions of each plate.