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  • Post #31 - November 17th, 2008, 7:24 pm
    Post #31 - November 17th, 2008, 7:24 pm Post #31 - November 17th, 2008, 7:24 pm
    I was a bit startled to learn from this thread that Boka had opened in (late) 2004. I was thinking of it as one of the new restaurants; apparently it just slightly postdates Charcoal Oven. Nevertheless it is slightly newer than it looks thanks to the presence, and subsequent Food & Wine best new chefs anointment, of Giuseppe Tentori, who I guess has just been there a couple of years at most.

    If, as a comment above suggests, Boka was once trying to be the new Blackbird, that's clearly not Tentori's aim. He's clearly aiming for a delicate sort of Asian fusion in which main ingredients are paired with surprising new flavors, many of them citrus fruits or of a similar lightness. So it's more like the new Yoshi's, or the new Le Lan-- or whatever the hot restaurant of Asian fusion circa 1991 was, it felt more like dining a decade-plus ago than the last several upscale meals I've had. Not that I object to a little time travel with my meal, any day.

    The down side is that many of these novel flavor combinations just didn't pan out; the meal was a frustrating mix of spot-on marvels and weird, who-thought-that-went-together moments. A starter of hamachi paired with a brightly grassy cilantro sauce and something called "young coconut-buddha hand vinaigrette" (I could look up what all that means, but really, it's better as just pure poetry) was exquisitely light, a little shot of helium for the palate. Slices of duck breast in some combination that included a cornmeal sauce (however such a thing is possible) were savory and intensely satisfying. Sweet roasted beets with a tangy beet puree and little dicey bits of smoke flavor from Nueske's bacon was a terrific salad. But a scallop came with some odd combination of fruit and whatnot that tasted like banana next to it, doing no more to enhance the flavor of the scallop than dipping it in chocolate sauce would. And a baby squid accompanied by squid-ink tapioca (trying to be caviar, coming off more like a briny Jell-O pudding) was flat, it just needed another note to make it all zing. Nothing was so far off that I wanted to call in Gordon Ramsay to ask "Did you taste this before you sent it out?", but I would have sent a couple of them back for rethinking and simplifying. The fact that you can get an odd fruit this time of year does not mean you have to use it with the first piece of protein that comes along...

    Dessert ended things on a high note; I really, really liked a crepe cake with cider sorbet, a perfect autumn dessert with great texture and flavors. The room is quite nice, romantically dark and cozy, sails that look like they came from Calatrava's Milwaukee art museum make something dramatic out of a square box room. Service was pretty solid, a little young and overeager in its enthusiasm for chef's cuisine, but capable and on top of things throughout (when my wife noted that her cocktail had been quite strong, the immediate response was to summon an extra round of bread service). All in all a good meal, but not one that made me feel like I was in the assured hands of a master; if I were to return it would be with more thought given to each thing before I ordered it, and whether I really believed that its four or five preciously described ingredients belonged together.
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  • Post #32 - April 22nd, 2010, 12:54 pm
    Post #32 - April 22nd, 2010, 12:54 pm Post #32 - April 22nd, 2010, 12:54 pm
    Heading here with some friends (who live near) on Saturday. Has anyone been here lately?

    ps - I just did some checking on Yelp of all places - so please, if you've been here and can avoid the word Yummy and its variants, throw a little info my way. Thanks much lth....
    "It's not that I'm on commission, it's just I've sifted through a lot of stuff and it's not worth filling up on the bland when the extraordinary is within equidistant tasting distance." - David Lebovitz
  • Post #33 - July 18th, 2010, 10:55 am
    Post #33 - July 18th, 2010, 10:55 am Post #33 - July 18th, 2010, 10:55 am
    I'm quite surprised Boka doesn't get more love on this board. Mrs. P, our daughter and I went there last night and enjoyed a wonderful meal.
    We did the nine course tasting menu, and were very pleased with everything, except the last two dessert courses, which, oddly, were over salted. We were told that this was the pastry chef's first night after being at Trotter's so perhaps that figures into this some how.

    None-the-less the rest of the meal was outstanding. We began with Big Eye Tuna rolls, that were accompanied by peeky toe crab, and green tea glass noodles. The dish was fresh and delicious.

    Next up was Copper River salmon. Mostly just seared and accompanied by fennel, fava bean and chamomile broth the course was quite good. I typically will only eat salmon raw as I believe cooking it causes the fish oil to impart a semi nasty flavor to the fish (I know, I'm alone in this view), but somehow the salmon here was terrific. The orange gnocchi that came with the dish was perfectly cooked, but seemed a bit too orangey for the dish. Loved the fennel here though.

    The third course was the star of the night. Halibut, with some sort of curryesque crust (vandouvan spice? a new one for me), grilled bok choy and coconut couscous. Wow! Along with the grilled eggplant, this course was a homerun.

    Fourth up was Muscovy duck with short rib ravioli. The duck was perfect and my only complaint would have been that the ravioli pasta was a little thin and could have been more toothsome. May daughter was unimpressed with the short rib filling, but I thought the whole dish came together nicely. A nice addition to this course was the small dollops of pureed arugula that were placed on the plate. A little dab with either the duck or the ravioli nearly blew my head clean off.....and I mean that in the best possible sense. Really liked it.

    Fifth was confit rabbit leg with smoked tomato sauce, yukon gold potatoes and fiddlehead ferns. A terrific course, the smoked tomato sauce had a hint of adobo flavor to it which gave the whole dish a nice depth.

    Sixth and final main course was the New Zealand Venison, which came with rapini, spaetzle and chocolate. A nice finish to the main meal.

    Our seventh course was an apricot sorbet. Simple, refreshing and powerfully flavored, this was an excellent transition dish to the dessert portion of the evening. As mentioned above, our final two dishes were fatally salted; a shame since they otherwise would have been a fine finish to an excellent meal.

    Service was very good, and all in all we had a fine evening out. Strongly recommend LTH'ers give this place more pub as it is one of Our Town's (as Kup would've said!) better joynts.
    "Living well is the best revenge"
  • Post #34 - July 20th, 2010, 6:19 pm
    Post #34 - July 20th, 2010, 6:19 pm Post #34 - July 20th, 2010, 6:19 pm
    I've had at least three wonderful meals at Boka in the last couple of years. Excellent service and creative food. I wish it would get more love on here too. Sometimes they have a lovely chicken thigh appetizer with a crisp skin chip that I've enjoyed and I had a wonderful short rib entree there in the winter. I've always liked the fish dishes too.
    And while I can make it at home, I do like their truffled mac and cheese with edamame.
  • Post #35 - September 27th, 2010, 1:19 pm
    Post #35 - September 27th, 2010, 1:19 pm Post #35 - September 27th, 2010, 1:19 pm
    I always thought it was odd that Giuseppe Tentori won Best "New" Chef by Food and Wine in 2008 despite basically running the kitchen at Charlie Trotters for a number years. Regardless, Boka is outstanding and it bears watching what will happen in the coming years. If they had a better PR person they would probably contend as one of the top Chicago restaurants due to the talent they have assembled in the kitchen! They are simply an outstanding dining experience IMO.
  • Post #36 - November 7th, 2010, 6:19 pm
    Post #36 - November 7th, 2010, 6:19 pm Post #36 - November 7th, 2010, 6:19 pm
    I posted about foie gras and ended up going to Boka. I posted my foie gras comments here:

    http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=30128

    I'd certainly go to Boka again. My dinner companion was an hour late, and I had gotten seated a few minutes early. I don't drink, so there I am for an hour with my water. They actually brought me their "raw tasting menu" appetizer for free to "apologize for my inconvenience". How very nice! Oh, all in all, the raw tasting menu appetizer was probably better than the foie gras.

    I had their duck entree and it was great. They actually serve it with crispy skin. I'd had duck so many times at Naha (being a sucker for the foie gras) and they had never served it with skin.

    Boka seemed to go out of their way to make us happy. They brought us a free mac n cheese with truffles side dish while we were eating our entrees.

    The duck entree had come with some rounds of duck confit with picked duck tongue on them. More than they had to put on a plate, but it was all very nice.

    Dessert fell a little flat though. I really wish these restaurants would get a good pastry chef. Oh well.
  • Post #37 - December 19th, 2010, 2:17 pm
    Post #37 - December 19th, 2010, 2:17 pm Post #37 - December 19th, 2010, 2:17 pm
    Our group of four went to Boka last night and it was excellent. There wasn't any one thing that blew us away, but rather, it's a restaurant where the food is consistently good and the service is helpful and flawless. Boka really has its act together and we had a wonderful meal, with interesting food and no hiccups. ;)

    Nancy S wrote:I posted about foie gras and ended up going to Boka. I posted my foie gras comments here:

    http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=30128

    Two of us had the foie gras last night. It was excellent, with one piece on each plate served over a small piece of banana, and the other on a small piece of brioche. One note: They told us that these were the last two servings of FG they had (and we were seated at 6:30). So if you're dying for their FG, you might want to make a comment when making your reservation requesting that they hold however many portions for your party.

    Bread service consisted of hot focaccia which they brought over on a tray, and it was outstanding.

    For my main, I had the braised veal cheek with sweetbreads, and it was wonderful, just amazingly tender and moist. There was a bit of fat that I needed to trim off, but that's no big deal. The sweetbreads were just a few small morsels, so get this dish if you're wanting the cheek, not the sweetbreads.

    Nancy S wrote:Dessert fell a little flat though. I really wish these restaurants would get a good pastry chef. Oh well.

    I basically agree. It's not that any of the desserts were bad, only that they weren't all that impressive.

    Only two of us were really interested in dessert, so we split the three-course dessert tasting. It consisted of three of the desserts shown on the menu, served in separate courses, plus a bonus fourth that they threw in. The best and most interesting was a scoop of prickly pear sorbet, because the sweetness of the sorbet played nicely off the two garnishes, one a smear of lime curd that was the tartest thing I have ever eaten in my life, the other some tequila jelly that was surprisingly boozy. The contrast of flavors and textures worked very well. The other desserts - "SPICED CAKE, HONEY CRISP APPLE, VADOUVAN BUTTER, WALNUT, YOGURT GELATO", "FLOURLESS VENEZUELAN CHOCOLATE CAKE, SMOKED CHOCOLATE GELATO, NIBS", and the bonus lemon curd with a little meringue on top, were interesting but not all that impressive. The flourless chocolate cake was the most disappointing (and IMHO the description slightly misleading) because it really wasn't a cake at all. Usually I think of a flourless chocolate cake as one that is lightened in texture through the use of egg whites in baking, but this was a creamy chocolate dessert, not light at all, with a texture somewhere in between a pudding and a pave. I got the feeling that they were spending too much time trying to create desserts that seemed different and striking with a bunch of different components, and not enough time trying to create desserts that taste really really good. $.02

    Overall, though, dinner was excellent, and we all had a great time.
  • Post #38 - December 19th, 2010, 4:20 pm
    Post #38 - December 19th, 2010, 4:20 pm Post #38 - December 19th, 2010, 4:20 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:...I got the feeling that they were spending too much time trying to create desserts that seemed different and striking with a bunch of different components, and not enough time trying to create desserts that taste really really good.


    I was laughing out loud from this comment. I don't think Boka is anywhere near alone in being a pretty great restaurant with so-so desserts.

    Maybe this is an industry problem in 3 star like restaurants (maybe in 4 star too, I just don't eat there).

    Too much emphasis on being unusual.

    I mean it, one of the best desserts I've had in a while was a on one Thanksgiving day when I was eating at an Old Country Buffet and they had chocolate pudding with marshmallows, chocolate chips and whipped cream mixed in.

    Now why in the world can't you get something like that at a nice restaurant? Oh, and one of the best desserts I had at a nice restaurant in the last number of years was at Harry Carey's. It was a brownie sundae. Was it that unusual? No, it was just a nice brownie, with some nice ice cream and some nice hot fudge syrup. Like that isn't good enough. Wake up restaurants, that IS good enough, it's great - who doesn't love it?

    Nancy
  • Post #39 - December 19th, 2010, 5:13 pm
    Post #39 - December 19th, 2010, 5:13 pm Post #39 - December 19th, 2010, 5:13 pm
    Not to go too far off-topic here, since this topic is supposed to be about Boka. But in a rare (for me) post to the "Best Thing You've Eaten (Lately)" topic, I cited two phenomenal desserts that I've eaten (lately :) ) at two different mid-priced upscale restaurants. (Click here.) So it does happen.
  • Post #40 - December 20th, 2010, 6:37 am
    Post #40 - December 20th, 2010, 6:37 am Post #40 - December 20th, 2010, 6:37 am
    Nancy S wrote:I mean it, one of the best desserts I've had in a while was a on one Thanksgiving day when I was eating at an Old Country Buffet and they had chocolate pudding with marshmallows, chocolate chips and whipped cream mixed in.

    Now why in the world can't you get something like that at a nice restaurant?


    You can.

    Petterino's
    150 North Dearborn
    Chicago, IL 60601
    (312) 422-0150
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #41 - December 20th, 2010, 10:44 am
    Post #41 - December 20th, 2010, 10:44 am Post #41 - December 20th, 2010, 10:44 am
    stevez wrote:
    Nancy S wrote:I mean it, one of the best desserts I've had in a while was a on one Thanksgiving day when I was eating at an Old Country Buffet and they had chocolate pudding with marshmallows, chocolate chips and whipped cream mixed in.

    Now why in the world can't you get something like that at a nice restaurant?


    You can.

    Petterino's
    150 North Dearborn
    Chicago, IL 60601
    (312) 422-0150

    The desserts at Vie -- especially under new pastry chef Rochelle DuBridge -- are consistently outstanding, too.

    =R=

    Vie Restaurant
    4471 Lawn Avenue
    Western Springs, IL 60558-1765
    (708) 246-2082
    Same planet, different world
  • Post #42 - December 20th, 2010, 5:14 pm
    Post #42 - December 20th, 2010, 5:14 pm Post #42 - December 20th, 2010, 5:14 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:Our group of four went to Boka last night and it was excellent. There wasn't any one thing that blew us away, but rather, it's a restaurant where the food is consistently good and the service is helpful and flawless. Boka really has its act together and we had a wonderful meal, with interesting food and no hiccups. ;)

    Nancy S wrote:I posted about foie gras and ended up going to Boka. I posted my foie gras comments here:

    http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=30128

    Two of us had the foie gras last night. It was excellent, with one piece on each plate served over a small piece of banana, and the other on a small piece of brioche. One note: They told us that these were the last two servings of FG they had (and we were seated at 6:30). So if you're dying for their FG, you might want to make a comment when making your reservation requesting that they hold however many portions for your party.

    Bread service consisted of hot focaccia which they brought over on a tray, and it was outstanding.

    For my main, I had the braised veal cheek with sweetbreads, and it was wonderful, just amazingly tender and moist. There was a bit of fat that I needed to trim off, but that's no big deal. The sweetbreads were just a few small morsels, so get this dish if you're wanting the cheek, not the sweetbreads.

    Nancy S wrote:Dessert fell a little flat though. I really wish these restaurants would get a good pastry chef. Oh well.

    I basically agree. It's not that any of the desserts were bad, only that they weren't all that impressive.

    Only two of us were really interested in dessert, so we split the three-course dessert tasting. It consisted of three of the desserts shown on the menu, served in separate courses, plus a bonus fourth that they threw in. The best and most interesting was a scoop of prickly pear sorbet, because the sweetness of the sorbet played nicely off the two garnishes, one a smear of lime curd that was the tartest thing I have ever eaten in my life, the other some tequila jelly that was surprisingly boozy. The contrast of flavors and textures worked very well. The other desserts - "SPICED CAKE, HONEY CRISP APPLE, VADOUVAN BUTTER, WALNUT, YOGURT GELATO", "FLOURLESS VENEZUELAN CHOCOLATE CAKE, SMOKED CHOCOLATE GELATO, NIBS", and the bonus lemon curd with a little meringue on top, were interesting but not all that impressive. The flourless chocolate cake was the most disappointing (and IMHO the description slightly misleading) because it really wasn't a cake at all. Usually I think of a flourless chocolate cake as one that is lightened in texture through the use of egg whites in baking, but this was a creamy chocolate dessert, not light at all, with a texture somewhere in between a pudding and a pave. I got the feeling that they were spending too much time trying to create desserts that seemed different and striking with a bunch of different components, and not enough time trying to create desserts that taste really really good. $.02

    Overall, though, dinner was excellent, and we all had a great time.


    I was at Boka 3 weeks ago and had tasted all of the desserts. I thought they were all great, but the flourless chocolate cake was to die for. One of the best tasting desserts I have ever had.
  • Post #43 - October 28th, 2011, 6:19 pm
    Post #43 - October 28th, 2011, 6:19 pm Post #43 - October 28th, 2011, 6:19 pm
    Boka has long been near the top of the list of places I've wanted to try. I finally crossed it off when we stopped in for my wife's birthday a couple weeks ago. I was excited that the meal would apparently live up to expectations (and the Michelin star) after a duet of yellow fin, both raw and in a Japanese-style croquette, was a triumph of contrasting textures, with whipped avocado acting as a perfect foil for acidic Champagne grapes and crisp plantain chips.

    Unfortunately, the meal went quickly downhill from there. Quinoa salad & apple soup were both wan, seemingly bland on bland. Portions of the former, such as the housemade halumi, were unpleasantly ice cold, while the only impression left by the latter's single foie gras tortellini was regret (whether at the miserly portion, the gritty texture of the pasta or the complete lack of flavor I can't entirely be sure). Beef tenderloin was perfectly palatable, but its side of Yorkshire pudding filled with a coagulated boudin noir purée was disgusting (and blood sausage is one of my favorite foods). Pork Belly arrived just shy of luke warm, accentuating the worst part of its gelatinousness. It was accompanied by "bao," a term I hesitate to use for these cold little dough nuggets without filling. I would have been ashamed to serve them to my guests. The piquant fermented black bean sauce might have rescued a dish that was less ill-prepared, but not this one. Unsurprisingly, this dish is no longer on the menu.

    To end, we shared a selection of cheeses, which were quite good (the Chällerhocker, exceptional)...book-ending the meal with the two best offerings from the kitchen. Sadly, the wine list is woefully thin. We made due with a couple glasses of Burgundy, whose most memorable characteristic was sourness. This would have been forgiven if the cocktails were more than just average (I'd heard so many good things...though I do know Mr. Schiller was otherwise occupied that evening, so I'm not sure who made our drinks). Service tried its best, but was occasionally awkward...I really didn't need to know that the meat was "slaughtered to violin music in order to reduce the flavor of adrenaline in the flesh."

    Lacking any frame of reference, I can only hope that this was a very, very off night for Boka. Has anyone else been there lately who can chime in with their experience?
  • Post #44 - October 31st, 2011, 1:18 pm
    Post #44 - October 31st, 2011, 1:18 pm Post #44 - October 31st, 2011, 1:18 pm
    They must have been having an off night when I was there a month or so ago. Beige, bland and boring food was cooked with little attention or care. Some dishes were lukewarm, some were stone cold and none were properly salted. Crab without taste, gritty foie tortellini, check...

    Very different place than it was in 2005, imho.
    "Barbecue sauce is like a beautiful woman. If it’s too sweet, it’s bound to be hiding something."
    — Lyle Lovett


    "How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray
  • Post #45 - February 3rd, 2013, 1:49 am
    Post #45 - February 3rd, 2013, 1:49 am Post #45 - February 3rd, 2013, 1:49 am
    My wife and I dined at Boka tonight with another couple and went with the six course tasting menu. Despite being Michelin starred, IMHO Boka seems to fly under the radar and not receive the accolades it deserves. We have now had dinner at Boka on three occasions and each has been consistently outstanding (Boka ranks among my top several venues in Chicago). Boka also features one of Chicago's best mixologists (Ben Schiller) and my favorite cocktail (the Weston - Templeton Rye with pipe tobacco and coffee essence), so we have stopped in for a cocktail or two on occasions when dining in the neighborhood. Boka has an elegant yet relaxed vibe and some of the warmest service around. There is an a la carte menu available or for $85 you can opt for a six course tasting menu (optional wine pairings for $55); they have a template for the tasting menu but do an wonderful job customizing it based not just on dietary restrictions, but also preferences and aversions. I believe they have a smaller tasting menu available as well.

    After enjoying a Weston at the bar our first course of the night was a "raw tasting" featuring four different preparations of seafood served in a Bento Box (all delicious; the oyster was my favorite; there was also Japanese Hamachi, Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi and Tangerine Marinated Snapper Carpaccio); not pictured is the bread service which consisted of some really good Focaccia that was replenished later:
    Image

    Next up was the Barramundi course served with grilled salsify, pigeon beans, broccolini cous cous and date puree:
    Image

    This was followed by one of my two favorite courses of the night, grilled baby octopus with BBQ short ribs, unagi terrine and kimchee puree:
    Image

    Next was a veal breast with sweet bread croutons, aged balsamic and braised radicchio risotto; probably my least favorite course of the night, but still enjoyable:
    Image

    We added an order of the mac n' cheese with edamame and shaved black truffle (a supplemental course that was being served with the Restaurant Week menu):
    Image

    My other favorite course of the night was some perfectly cooked venison loin with beer braised collared greens, confit baby turnips, carrot ribbons and mustard mole jus; smelled, looked and tasted phenomenal:
    Image

    We requested a cheese course in lieu of one of the two desserts and were served some very pleasant house made goat cheese with a yuzu jam:
    Image

    The dessert course was a peanut butter semifreddo and was served with a grape tasting dessert wine to create a play on a PB&J; we noticed how beautiful many of the serving pieces were and our served informed us that many of them are handmade for the restaurant by an artist affiliated with the Smithsonian:
    Image

    As a nice finale to the meal a plate with several different mignardises were delivered; peanut brittle, jellies, fudge, marshmallow, truffles all sorts of goodies:
    Image

    All of our meals at Boka have been fantastic but tonight's was even a step up from our prior meals. We will definitely be back again in a few months when the menu changes.
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #46 - February 3rd, 2013, 9:13 am
    Post #46 - February 3rd, 2013, 9:13 am Post #46 - February 3rd, 2013, 9:13 am
    Gonzo70 wrote:My wife and I dined at Boka tonight with another couple and went with the six course tasting menu. Despite being Michelin starred, IMHO Boka seems to fly under the radar and not receive the accolades it deserves. We have now had dinner at Boka on three occasions and each has been consistently outstanding (Boka ranks among my top several venues in Chicago).

    I agree. It's an unfortunate fact about Chicago's restaurant scene that there are so very many excellent restaurants here that some are consistently excellent but get overshadowed by the relative handful that get all the media attention. (I could easily rattle off the names of other outstanding restaurants that are also often overlooked, but this topic is about Boka, and I don't want to set it off on a tangent.)

    Also, while the food at Boka is excellent (as you can see in Gonzo's photos above), I think the service is quite extraordinary and deserves singling out for praise, which I neglected to do in my previous post above. Although they don't have the armies of waitstaff you find in the high-end temples of haute cuisine, their staff is some of the best you'll find anywhere. Subtleties such as the timing of the service and how they handle any specific circumstances can make the difference between a good dinner and a great one, and they were just superb when we were there, to such an extent that I still remember that two years later. Which reminds me, I need to get back there, it's been a while... :)
  • Post #47 - February 3rd, 2013, 8:33 pm
    Post #47 - February 3rd, 2013, 8:33 pm Post #47 - February 3rd, 2013, 8:33 pm
    My last meal at Boka was fairly unmemorable. Perfectly 'correct' but just that.
  • Post #48 - June 5th, 2013, 8:56 pm
    Post #48 - June 5th, 2013, 8:56 pm Post #48 - June 5th, 2013, 8:56 pm
    Boka has undergone some staffing changes recently; mixologist Ben Schiller left a couple weeks ago to run the beverage program at Homestead and the about-to-open Berkshire Room. Last week general manager Jordan Egan left; he is moving to New York and will be working at The NoMad (sister venue to Eleven Madison Park). Definitely a big loss; Jordan was one of my favorite GM's and Ben my favorite mixologist. The good news is there are no major changes in the kitchen, still some excellent front of the house staff remaining and a highly regarded new general manager will be starting Monday (coming from outside Boka Group). Savannah Witmer has been promoted to replace Ben Schiller and has already developed some excellent new summer cocktails; For the Record (Templeton Rye, Almond Syrup, Housemade Orange Blossom Essence and Lemon) is my favorite of her new creations. While Ben will be missed, Savannah is definitely a rising star in the mixology community and in like Ben is extremely friendly in addition to making some wonderful cocktails. My wife and I had dinner tonight and once again the food, service and overall experience was excellent. While it was not quite the same without Ben and Jordan, there was no discernable drop in quality and Boka continues to be one of our favorite venues.

    Best of luck to Savannah and the new general manager!
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #49 - June 5th, 2013, 10:51 pm
    Post #49 - June 5th, 2013, 10:51 pm Post #49 - June 5th, 2013, 10:51 pm
    I was at Boka's bar the other night (pre-Alinea, as is often the case for me) and met Savannah, who was quite friendly. I have no idea how her drinks are because, quite honestly, with a back bar stocked like that one, I found it impossible to order a cocktail. This is, without question, one of the best curated whiskey selections in the city. It's not a vast selection like Delilah's, Fountainhead or Sable but it's packed with superstar expressions. Ben Schiller's knowledge and expertise are all over those shelves and it'll be interesting to see how it evolves now that he's moved on. I know that chef Tentori is a huge fan of bourbon, so hopefully the tradition of excellent (American) whiskeys will continue on at Boka.

    =R=
    Same planet, different world
  • Post #50 - July 12th, 2013, 3:00 pm
    Post #50 - July 12th, 2013, 3:00 pm Post #50 - July 12th, 2013, 3:00 pm
    Now Savannah is leaving Boka (for Sepia); Boka will be hiring a new mixologist. I saw today that Matthew Lipsky is leaving Charcoal Bar, so wonder if there is any connection there.
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #51 - September 2nd, 2013, 7:42 am
    Post #51 - September 2nd, 2013, 7:42 am Post #51 - September 2nd, 2013, 7:42 am
    Mrs EdB60035 and I celebrated our anniversary last night at Boka. We had been once before and really enjoyed it, top to bottom. Though the choice was a last minute thing, they called to confirm and asked about a special occasion and allergies. I let them know that the missus is gluten-free and the anniversary.

    I should start this post with emphasis that the food we ate was very, very good, maybe one dish needed a little help and one that was really outstanding. but. The service really needed help.

    We ordered the 7-course tasting and some cocktails. The first course, a tasty if not adventurous seafood bento box, arrived before the cocktails. So no toast to set the tone of the occasion before degustation. The waiter knew my wife was GF, so the notes got to him, but another server offered both of us bread anyway. Oddly, there was never a refill on bread, but the plates/butter sat on the table through to desserts.

    The second course, diver scallop with fiedeos, arrived about 15 minutes later. MrsEdB's plate didn't have the noodles, but we both enjoyed this dish, including a small slice of sausage and some smoked grapes. Nice and flavorful.

    We were surprised when the next dish was pork belly, mine with jalapeno cornbread and hers with a capable alternative. It was heavy, not in a bad way, but not quite the progression we expected for a 3rd course.

    It was about this time that our cocktails were done and MrsEdB ordered a glass of wine. Oddly, the used cocktail glasses and wine list sat on the table for nearly the remainder of the evening, through three more courses.

    From there we moved on to bison, three medallions served atop a squash puree and some other ingredients. The bison could have used some salt or other seasoning. Cooked perfectly though.

    At this point our place mats were cleared and a dessert course was served. It was apple three ways, including candidly what seemed like Mott's applesauce dots on the plate; visually beautiful (all the serving-ware at Boka is amazing, makes me feel very Mitsukoshi of Japan), tasty, but maybe a little too one-note. It was followed almost immediately by "your final course" - a peanut-butter ice cream and crumbled cookie dish. Coffee and tea were never offered (with or following dessert).

    MrsEdB's instinct at the pork belly course was right, something had been missed. We were only served six courses of a 7-course tasting (and there was no amuse or intermezzo or anything where we could have mis-counted). The waiter came by to ask if we needed "anything else", and I politely and without anything other than curiosity said "I believe we were only served six courses." He was quite taken aback by this, disappeared for a bit.

    He returned shortly thereafter with the check and a plate of small sweets. For the bill, he indicated "you're right, we missed a course, so we took care of your drinks."
    Hm. We had consumed three drinks total, and they credited us the value of 2.5 of them, $30.
    Except that we also missed 1/7th of a $85 tasting menu, which to me means that basically they had credited us for food we ordered but didn't consume, plus another $5. On our anniversary I wasn't going to make a scene by complaining further, they had done what they thought was right. I don't.

    To top it off our anniversary was never acknowledged, (edit) the waiter brought us copies of the tasting menu - including the course (octopus) we had never been served, (/edit) and the valet brought us the wrong car (a nice X3, maybe we should have taken it lol).

    The manager on the way out laughed and said "so I hear I should fire (server name)...ha ha ha". No, actually, maybe you should fire yourself, your front-of-house needs some serious help with the basics for a Michelin 1*.
  • Post #52 - September 5th, 2013, 2:08 pm
    Post #52 - September 5th, 2013, 2:08 pm Post #52 - September 5th, 2013, 2:08 pm
    Sorry that you had a bad experience EDB. I've had nothing but outstanding food and service at Boka, and will be there again Tuesday night. I'll report back any thoughts.
  • Post #53 - October 20th, 2013, 4:33 pm
    Post #53 - October 20th, 2013, 4:33 pm Post #53 - October 20th, 2013, 4:33 pm
    I returned to Boka and did the tasting menu for my first time in a few months; overall I was extremely impressed. We had some jitters due to four FOH staff members we had grown close to having left, but received flawless service and enjoyed the new staff we encountered. We began with a round of cocktails at the bar; the new bartender (formerly of North Pond & Graham Elliot) just developed a new set of fall cocktails and I loved the La Pistola featuring rye, mezcal and housemade ginger beer; most ginger cocktails I have found the ginger to be mild but it was really assertive with this cocktails and played nicely with the mezcal.

    I really liked the touches new GM Jamie Kluz has made on the dining room; a couple of tables were removed to make the room more spacious and some beautiful, comfortable plush leather chairs were brought in that formerly were at Ria. The difference is noticeable and for the better. I also greatly enjoyed her wine pairings (she had a theme of using wines from regions where one would not typically associate the region with the varietal of the wine).

    Service was top notch despite all the changes; we had Chris for our first time and he did a great making some adjustments to the tasting menu to fit our preferences. I had one of the best dishes I have consumed this year; Boka recently received a shipment of truffles and there was a risotto with shaved white truffle as a supplement that was not only divine, but quite affordable ($30 supplement for the tasting menu; $60 if ordering it a la carte). The truffles were so fragrant.

    Some more changes are coming; Chef de Cuisine Carl Shelton is moving out of state, so Chef Giuseppe Tentori himself reportedly will be spending a lot of time in house during the transition. With the GM (and new chairs) coming from Ria I can't help but ponder whether there is a chance Chef Danny Grant may be in the running for the new CDC position - but this is 100% speculation and not based on anything I heard. Overall our dinner was so fantastic we have are already booked to return in December for my birthday week.
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #54 - October 23rd, 2013, 12:16 pm
    Post #54 - October 23rd, 2013, 12:16 pm Post #54 - October 23rd, 2013, 12:16 pm
    Gonzo70 wrote:I returned to Boka and did the tasting menu for my first time in a few months; overall I was extremely impressed. We had some jitters due to four FOH staff members we had grown close to having left, but received flawless service and enjoyed the new staff we encountered. We began with a round of cocktails at the bar; the new bartender (formerly of North Pond & Graham Elliot) just developed a new set of fall cocktails and I loved the La Pistola featuring rye, mezcal and housemade ginger beer; most ginger cocktails I have found the ginger to be mild but it was really assertive with this cocktails and played nicely with the mezcal.

    I really liked the touches new GM Jamie Kluz has made on the dining room; a couple of tables were removed to make the room more spacious and some beautiful, comfortable plush leather chairs were brought in that formerly were at Ria. The difference is noticeable and for the better. I also greatly enjoyed her wine pairings (she had a theme of using wines from regions where one would not typically associate the region with the varietal of the wine).

    Service was top notch despite all the changes; we had Chris for our first time and he did a great making some adjustments to the tasting menu to fit our preferences. I had one of the best dishes I have consumed this year; Boka recently received a shipment of truffles and there was a risotto with shaved white truffle as a supplement that was not only divine, but quite affordable ($30 supplement for the tasting menu; $60 if ordering it a la carte). The truffles were so fragrant.

    Some more changes are coming; Chef de Cuisine Carl Shelton is moving out of state, so Chef Giuseppe Tentori himself reportedly will be spending a lot of time in house during the transition. With the GM (and new chairs) coming from Ria I can't help but ponder whether there is a chance Chef Danny Grant may be in the running for the new CDC position - but this is 100% speculation and not based on anything I heard. Overall our dinner was so fantastic we have are already booked to return in December for my birthday week.


    I don't remember Jamie Klutz from Ria. Both times I went to Ria the GM was Brian O'Connor. That said, I do hope to see Danny Grant back in action in Chicago.
    The Windy Foodie
    http://windyfoodie.com
  • Post #55 - October 23rd, 2013, 3:04 pm
    Post #55 - October 23rd, 2013, 3:04 pm Post #55 - October 23rd, 2013, 3:04 pm
    windyfoodie wrote:
    Gonzo70 wrote:I returned to Boka and did the tasting menu for my first time in a few months; overall I was extremely impressed. We had some jitters due to four FOH staff members we had grown close to having left, but received flawless service and enjoyed the new staff we encountered. We began with a round of cocktails at the bar; the new bartender (formerly of North Pond & Graham Elliot) just developed a new set of fall cocktails and I loved the La Pistola featuring rye, mezcal and housemade ginger beer; most ginger cocktails I have found the ginger to be mild but it was really assertive with this cocktails and played nicely with the mezcal.

    I really liked the touches new GM Jamie Kluz has made on the dining room; a couple of tables were removed to make the room more spacious and some beautiful, comfortable plush leather chairs were brought in that formerly were at Ria. The difference is noticeable and for the better. I also greatly enjoyed her wine pairings (she had a theme of using wines from regions where one would not typically associate the region with the varietal of the wine).

    Service was top notch despite all the changes; we had Chris for our first time and he did a great making some adjustments to the tasting menu to fit our preferences. I had one of the best dishes I have consumed this year; Boka recently received a shipment of truffles and there was a risotto with shaved white truffle as a supplement that was not only divine, but quite affordable ($30 supplement for the tasting menu; $60 if ordering it a la carte). The truffles were so fragrant.

    Some more changes are coming; Chef de Cuisine Carl Shelton is moving out of state, so Chef Giuseppe Tentori himself reportedly will be spending a lot of time in house during the transition. With the GM (and new chairs) coming from Ria I can't help but ponder whether there is a chance Chef Danny Grant may be in the running for the new CDC position - but this is 100% speculation and not based on anything I heard. Overall our dinner was so fantastic we have are already booked to return in December for my birthday week.


    I don't remember Jamie Klutz from Ria. Both times I went to Ria the GM was Brian O'Connor. That said, I do hope to see Danny Grant back in action in Chicago.


    You are correct; got my former 2 star venues mixed up - she was at Avenues before Graham Elliot, not Ria.
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #56 - November 13th, 2013, 3:39 pm
    Post #56 - November 13th, 2013, 3:39 pm Post #56 - November 13th, 2013, 3:39 pm
    According to Crain's Chicago.....

    Boka Restaurant Group is adding another (Michelin) star.

    The owners of Balena and Girl & the Goat restaurants announced today that Lee Wolen is becoming a partner of the company and executive chef for its Boka restaurant in Lincoln Park. Mr. Wolen, who also worked at Eleven Madison Park in New York, is fresh off earning one Michelin star at the Lobby restaurant at the Peninsula Chicago
  • Post #57 - February 11th, 2014, 9:17 am
    Post #57 - February 11th, 2014, 9:17 am Post #57 - February 11th, 2014, 9:17 am
    Dined at Boka last night; their first night since the remodel and with Chef Wolen at the helm. It is extremely impressive how much they accomplished in six weeks; really significant and very tasteful renovations. The dining rooms look stunning. When the weather warms up they have plans to have a single outdoor chef's table in the area where they are making a garden for Chef Wolen.

    The menu is equally impressive; so many great options it was difficult to choose. For those who dined at the Lobby and the old version of Boka, the menu is far more similar to the Lobby's menu than Boka's prior menu. I would love for the whole roasted chicken to be added at some point (was crazy about that dish at the Lobby and when we had it in New York at The NoMad) but for now there is a single person version of the chicken on the menu. There is also a bar bites menu now available (as well as a new cocktail menu and significantly changed wine menu - still similar spirits with lots of great whiskeys available). You can also order off the regular menu at the bar. Boka has gone away from tasting menus and is trying to appeal to a broader range of potential diners by making the experience more approachable, but without sacrificing quality. Prices are fairly similar to before, possibly just a bit less expensive.

    There were more personnel changes than I was expecting; new general manager, new bar manager and only a couple of the previous servers are back (fortunately my favorite server was retained). I recognized one of the new servers from The Lobby and one of my favorite servers who used to work at iNG came on board. Matt (who I had met at Balena) is the new GM; he seems really nice but I will miss Jamie Kluz. Nevertheless our dinner was phenomenal and we already made plans to return this weekend.
    Twitter: @Goof_2
  • Post #58 - March 6th, 2014, 5:03 pm
    Post #58 - March 6th, 2014, 5:03 pm Post #58 - March 6th, 2014, 5:03 pm
    Anyone else been recently?

    Itching to get in there.

    Edit: Itch scratched.

    Ended up going last night as my mother is in town and she thought the menu looked quite nice.

    I had never been to the previous Boka but had enjoyed Chef Wolen's food at the Lobby and never understood why he didn't get more press. Obviously that made me extremely curious to see what was happening at Boka.

    The space is pretty cool and I felt like the lighting and noise levels were really nice. We sat at a two top up front by the windows on the street. I imagine in the summer these will be in high demand. After dinner we got to see a bit more of the place and they have a lot of space and he did mention an outdoor 10 top that could serve as a chef's table. Nice.

    They started us off with a little Lentil "soup shooter". Good little opener.

    A pretzel roll and a bread that seemed like it could be a foccacia were offered alongside a house made butter. I enjoyed both.

    Started with the Ricotta Gnudi and they were fantastic. My mom deemed them one of the best dishes she has ever had. Unfortunately I am a tad sick so my palette wasn't completely there but I was able to confirm that these were in fact awesome. Perfectly fluffy and saddled with these tiny little mushrooms that added a nice contrast texturally, a butternut squash type sauce and some fried sage. Probably a bunch of other stuff too but that has been forgotten. What will not be - is how delicious it was.

    My mom took the Monkfish and I went with the Short Rib.

    As a precursor I have been down a bit of a short rib wormhole lately as I picked up an immersion circulator over the holidays and have been geeking out on different ways to cook meats that yield different end products. Short Ribs is an excellent example of this where you can cook it one way and get the pull apart kind of short rib (this generally comes from a braise) I generally get served in a restaurant or you can go a different direction (72 hours sous vide) and have a piece of meat served that is completely composed and might look more like a ribeye but is more tender than a filet and just PACKED with flavor. After the waiter started to describe the short rib he perked my interest as it leaned towards the latter description. I was in.

    Short Rib - Exactly as I was hoping for. It was served alongside a roasted onion, a bit of sauce, some fresh chard and some cooked chard. The short rib was wildly tender but not stringy at all. I think my Mom had no idea short rib could come out that way so that was cool. Overall a very nice dish with great flavors. Really hit the spot for me.

    Monkfish - For me this missed a bit of the kind of "Poor Man's Lobster" feel I traditionally think of when I get a properly cooked Monkfish. Thats not a bad thing. Instead, it had a wonderful full bite (with all the other ingredients) that I really really enjoyed.

    I would order both again.

    Lemon Olive Oil Cake for dessert. Beautiful presentation but the flavors weren't there for us. The cake seemed almost a tad dry.

    Meal closed out with a nice little truffle and some sort of candy. Both delicious.

    Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the food and the space. I feel like you get a very smart and well executed take on some items I have sometimes grown bored with.

    Boka will be a place I eagerly look forward to returning too and in the meantime will go ahead and start telling friends to take a trip.
  • Post #59 - May 27th, 2014, 9:18 am
    Post #59 - May 27th, 2014, 9:18 am Post #59 - May 27th, 2014, 9:18 am
    As I wrote several months ago, we had a bad night of service and not-entirely-memorable food for our wedding anniversary last summer. After I wrote the review, I also contacted the restaurant, who offered us a partial credit towards a future dinning opportunity as goodwill for the bad night. When they announced the renovation and changes in the kitchen, I thought it might just be that time and that we should plan to return again. We did, this past Sunday night, and it was a most wonderful experience.

    Everything we ate was very good to excellent. The grilled Spanish octopus starter was deemed "the best octopus I ever had" by Mrs EdB60035. The heirloom carrot salad was several mouthfuls of flavor. The grilled scallops with chorizo was the slowest I ever ate scallops, wanting to savor every bite. The cocktails and wines were very nice. And, most importantly, the service was attentive but not overwhelming.

    The new room is a fair bit louder than the old one (in the room with the bar anyway), with fewer soft surfaces and no tablecloths. But we were mostly able to hear each other (not so much at the bar), so NBD.

    Boka is very good value for money, too. I was a little disappointed that they no longer offer a tasting menu, but OK, there's a lot of flexibility in what they do offer. The room was packed on a Sunday/holiday weekend, so others have figured out that the new guy's got game. In short, go. Now. Worth the return or first visit.
  • Post #60 - May 27th, 2014, 12:35 pm
    Post #60 - May 27th, 2014, 12:35 pm Post #60 - May 27th, 2014, 12:35 pm
    edb60035 wrote:The new room is a fair bit louder than the old one (in the room with the bar anyway), with fewer soft surfaces and no tablecloths. But we were mostly able to hear each other (not so much at the bar), so NBD.


    Tangential question: What does NBD mean? I know what NB stands for--nota bene, or note well, which kind of works in this context. But I don't know NBD. Thanks.
    Pithy quote here.

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