Tuesday, January 21, 2014


For some Cincinnatians, it's dining Mecca. 

Dexter Leaving Boca
      It's appropriate that Boca has moved into the previous home of the Maisonette.  (For those who aren't from Cincinnati, it WAS restaurant Mecca after a 41 consecutive year run as a five-star establishment in the Mobil Travel Guide).  The inside has been literally gutted and the outcome
is jaw-dropping.  The center of attention is the massive chandelier that even the Phantom of the Opera would covet.  We were there to celebrate our birthdays with Lisa, and seated on the second level next to the all glass railing and eye level with the chandelier.  The furnishings are like a set from
Williams-Sonoma Home or our own High Street…modern, eclectic, and comfortable.  The banquettes are a throwback to the Maisonette.  Those, along with the side dining room on the first level, are the only recognizable traces from its predecessor.  There is a rawness in the exposed brick walls and rafters.  It all fits in with the restaurant's commitment to casual fine dining that works on all levels from the furnishings and tableware to the food and wait staff uniforms.  

A View of the Glass Stairway
     The menu design is spot on for today's diner.  Many of the entrées have tasting portions, which are basically half the size of the the full portion.  That was perfect for Eric and me as we like to try different dishes.  The kitchen also will divide the appetizers and some other entrées if you make your server aware of your plan.  (The table of four next to us were even sharing the Beef Wellington!)  There are also some nods to the Maisonette with versions of their Pommes Soufflées and the aforementioned Beef Wellington.  Homages are also paid to other chefs with variations on their creations.

NOTE: All dishes shown were the tasting portions except for Pommes Soufflés, Haricots Verts Salad, and desserts.

Pommes Soufflées
      We had been advised to have the Pommes Soufflées and the advice was correct.  They are not to be missed.  Potato fries that are puffed up several dimensions, they are mini balloons just waiting to be burst with that first bite.  Dipping them in the accompanying béarnaise sauce makes for an unforgettable treat.   We couldn't decide between the Grilled Romaine and Carmelized Brussels Sprouts, both signature dishes, so our head waiter suggested ordering both.
Grilled Romaine

The Grilled Romaine, which is actually a version of a Caesar salad with anchovy emulsion, was divided for us.  The flavors were all there, but I thought the grilling had left it a little too limp and hard to cut through.  Given a second chance, we would have left the Brussels spouts (actually another salad) off of our dance card.  After talking with others, we're not sure how this has become such a signature item for Boca.  The look and texture were like stewed prunes with an accent of garlic.  To all three of us, it was a taste palate that we couldn't imagine most people gravitating toward.  Eric likened it to snafus he has had in the kitchen that guests ended up devouring, and then one is stuck with recreating them over and over again.

Haricots Verts Salad
Lisa chose the Haricots Verts Salad and it was superb.  It had a perfectly poached egg sitting atop delicate frisee with the green beans peaking out from underneath.  Bacon, almonds, and a mustard sauce dressed it appropriately.  This should become a signature dish!  Eric had an Oysters Rockefeller and he couldn't have been happier.

Cappellacci Bolognese
      We all chose a tasting portion of the Cappellacci Bolognese as one of our entrées.  Very traditional, but so satisfying.  Lisa tried the Chatham Bay Cod as her other main course.  Eric was intrigued by the Robuchon potatoes that were listed as an accompaniment.  Joël Robuchon developed the delicacy while chef at Jamin in Paris.  They aren't seen often on a menu, so we asked our waiter if that was indeed what they were.
Chatham Bay Cod
His response was that they were an interpretation, and I guess we should have listened to that comment more closely.  It was a purée with carrots and turnips, which Eric found a little soupy and Lisa commented that if she had any potatoes, she didn't know it.  The cod was very nice when paired with the lemon sauce surrounding it.  Unfortunately, Lisa isn't into sauces (it wasn't mentioned on the menu), making the dish a little too bland without it.

Filet Boca
Eric and I went on to our Filet Boca, a house variation of Steak Oscar with king crab, fingerling potatoes, and Swiss chard all in a béarnaise sauce.  The meat was a perfect cut and set well with everything except the chard.  It was way too stringy and
Seafood Risotto
really was not needed at all.  Our hit entrée was the Seafood Risotto with lobster, scallops, and mussels.  Creamy and frothy, it was a dish that left us wanting more.

Poached Pear Financier
      Desserts were incredible.  Lisa chose the Poached Pear Financier.  We had anticipated a simple poached pear, but fortunately, Eric asked what the financier was.  It is a cake made with poached pears and topped with roasted almond sherbet with a side of pear sorbet.  Rich and balanced, it all
Buttermilk Vanilla Panna Cotta
worked especially well together.  Eric's and my Buttermilk Vanilla Panna Cotta was dolloped with candied pineapple bits on top in a thin coat of passion fruit "soup".  One spoonful of the panna cotta and the soup appeared throughout, giving it a refreshing flavor that still allowed the sharpness of the buttermilk to come through. 

Entrance to Boca

      Boca has a special place in Cincinnati dining.  Although not all dishes work for everyone and our serving group was not without mini flaws, it still demands a visit to experience what is one of the most stunning dining spaces you will ever encounter.  Sit back and enjoy the view of that chandelier sparkling in the glass and mirrors around the rooms.  It will all transport you to a magical world.

The Magical Reflections

Boca on Urbanspoon

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