Chef Arturo Paz has fed movie stars and big-name diners from L.A. to Miami. Now, he's set down roots in Ocean City as the executive chef of the beach town's newest restaurant, Bombora, located in the Beach Plaza Hotel.
"We love it here," said Arturo, pictured, whose wife Stephanie is also a chef at Bombora. "I thought it was a thoroughly cool, beautiful hotel."
I had a few minutes to talk to the couple last night before the grand opening party at Bombora, which is oceanside and on the boardwalk. Locals and visitors may remember the space as Phillips by the Sea.
The hotel and restaurant are owned by those Phillips, the family who also owns the Inner Harbor restaurant and a bunch of others in addition to its worldwide seafood company. Not bad for a business that started out as a carryout in the '50s.
Arturo became involved in the Phillips properties when he opened one of their restaurants in Atlantic City. He also was in Baltimore for a short while to reinvigorate that Phillips menu.
But with a two-year-old son, Arturo and his wife decided this Ocean City venture would best suit their family life and creativity. Bombora's menu focuses on "contemporary world cuisine infused with Latin and Asian flavors" and offers small and large plates, soups, salads, and flatbreads. It's a huge departure from the usual Phillips menu.
If last night's hors d'oeuvres were any indication, the food is going to be an exciting alternative for Ocean City diners. I had a chance to sample the orange, marinated skirt steak with chimichurri sauce; crab-cake sliders (hey, this is owned by Phillips) with tamarind tartar sauce; tuna tartare with wasabi peas; tikka masala braised chicken; and more!
The Phillips clan—Brice, Shirley, sons Steve and Jeff, and other family members—was in attendance, too. Steve, who is the company's CEO, welcomed guests in a short ceremony. "We're trying something different at the Beach Plaza Hotel," he said, referring to the restaurant and chef Paz. "I'm honored to have him here."
Arturo's parents were also at the party. They flew in from Miami to be there for their son. "They're so proud of me," said Arturo, excitedly.
Both the hotel and restaurant interior have had a makeover, mixing the old with the new. Somehow, the chandeliers and stained glass work with the comfy couches in the lobby and bare tables and refurbished chairs in the dining room.
"Sometimes, you need to walk out of the box," said Arturo, who is originally from Puerto Rico. "It's a different concept and focus."
I'll be writing more about Bombora in our June issue.
Photo by me