As should be apparent if you follow this blog, I tend to enjoy the obscure, hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop style of restaurant. Still, every so often one has to try something different. Around our birthdays (my wife and I have birthdays only a couple of weeks apart), we annually go someplace far from my usual haunts. This year we made a return trip to Boca.
I mentioned The Maisonette earlier which closed in 2005. The location now houses a superior fine-dining restaurant called Boca where we enjoyed an incredible meal recently. We went with my friend Rob, who I have mentioned several times as he always attends Mayberry Days with me, and his lovely wife, Julie.
We started with Pommes Soufflées. Like many dishes at this type of restaurant, I had no idea what this was until it arrived at the table. This 18th-century French dish was on the menu of the Maisonette and Boca brought it back a couple of years ago. The starter is a variation of a french fry. They begin with potato sliced to the thickness of a nickel. The slices are fried three times, first at a lower temperature then at a higher which causes the potatoes to puff and fill with air though they deflate as they cool. When ordered, they are flash-fried a third time which re-inflates them. The hollow tubes are then salted and brought to the table still hot and fully puffed. As one article I read noted, it is a lot of work for what is, in essence, an upscale bar snack. But I have to tell you, really tasty.
We split a couple of other small dishes next. I am not the biggest fan of brussel sprouts though I do like them roasted at high temperature. At Boca, this is a small dish they are known for and which we have had it at a previous visit. The brussel sprouts are prepared with brown butter truffle vinaigrette and served in a salad mix with a large scallop in the center of the dish.
We also all shared a taste of the Haricot Vert dish but this was far from the green beans I saw so often when visiting Kentucky as a child. The beans were mixed in a salad blend Boca amusingly calls “bling mix.” The dish also includes bacon lardon, traditional bacon’s even tastier cousin. Fried butternut squash is also in the salad which is dressed with a sherry vinaigrette and topped with a soft fried farm egg. The yolk was broken and mixed in with the salad. So good.
We then shared Tajarin con Tartufo based on the strong recommendation of our excellent server, Robert. While this pasta was the simplest of the pasta dishes on the menu, “simplest” is a relative term. The egg-heavy noodles are a long pasta dressed in brown butter, burgundy black truffle, and parigîano reggiano. Not too similar to the pasta I was normally exposed to growing up, that being Kraft Mac-and-cheese.
We all had separate entrees after eating these four dishes family style. I had a dish I have certainly heard of but had never tasted, Beef Wellington. There is a dispute about whether the dish originated in England or New Zealand, but it is labor-intensive enough that few restaurants offer it. The core of Boca’s is a beef filet coated in a påté of wild mushroom duxelles, a preparation of mushrooms sautéed with onions, shallots, garlic, and parsley. The coated steak is then wrapped in prosciutto and baked in a puff pastry that I am pretty sure was not Pillsbury crescent dough. After the plated dish was put in front of me, a hot black truffle bordelaise sauce was spread around the edge of the food. I have had steak prepared many different ways, but this coupled with the sauce was incredibly good. Though as I sometimes say about such things, for that price, it ought to be.
At that point, we had no business having dessert, but how often do you go to a spot like this? I had a dessert the server said Boca is becoming known for, the Buckeye Candy Bar. The base was a brownie made with a high-quality chocolate called valrhona that was covered with buttery feuilletine flakes blended with peanut butter and then completely dipped in a chocolate opera glaze. And since that wasn’t enough, it was served with peanut butter sauce and caramelized peanuts, as well as a rich peanut butter gelato topped with a chocolate disc.
After having had a cocktail at a bourbon bar before we even went to Boca and then a glass of a nice bottle of wine with the meal, I was done drinking for the night. But since I was driving, Rob also ordered a glass of a Hungarian dessert wine our server recommended called Royal Tokaji. Originally served in royal courts in Hungary, the wine is made from a type of grapes that are first allowed to ripen to the point of bursting. A beneficial grey fungus then covers the grapes. In drier conditions this causes the grapes to become partially raisined. This process is called “noble rot.” When the infested grapes are picked at the right point, they are collected into huge vats and trampled into a paste which is used to produce a particularly sweet wine. I did have a taste of the wine and it had a delicious flavor that was not as sweet as I would have assumed but was still definitely a dessert wine.
If you live in the Cincinnati area or have reason to visit, a restaurant like Boca really can deliver one of the best meals of your life. It was a flawless evening with both superior food and service in a beautiful setting.