Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BOKA restaurant

BOKA was the second restaurant we dined at last weekend for chicago restaurant week. first being cafe des architectes but that entry is postponed since i would be dining there for lunch tomorrow so i was gonna wait for that before writing it up.

taken from their website
i was quite excited about boka  since i recently found out that it is a michelin star recipient for 2011. i've never been to a restaurant to receive such an exclusive accolade where one star indicates "very good cuisine in its category". that is probably also the reason why i have extremely high expectations for the quality of the food.

from wikipedia | michelin guide reviews and rates top restaurants and world chefs with a rating system of one to three stars with the highest rated being three star chefs and restaurants.  the michelin star rating is the most recognized rating system in the culinary world for all of western europe. 

from boka's website

it was rainy and wasn't exactly the weather to dine out but not even rain was going to stop us. much to our amusement,  another fellow michelin guide three star recipient, alinea is located just right next door to boka (ryan was most excited to find it) we decided on valet parking ($11) since the weather was crappy and it was difficult to find a parking spot.


as we were driving past the restaurant the first time (sorta missed it), i thought i saw my friend's fiance waiting outside the restaurant so i texted him to confirm if he was in the area. andy said he just finished dinner at boka... what a surprise/coincidence! of all restaurants and of all nights. i told him ryan and i were at boka for our reservation and asked him how was their dinner.

his response was: "the dessert will blow your faces off."

now that is something to look forward to towards the end of the meal. btw, i assumed that he meant it in a good way. lol



the decor of the restaurant was a mix of modern contemporary and vintage chic. i like it a lot. it was dimly lit and cozy. it had some really interesting tent-like structures within their dining area.





their restaurant week three course menu offered four options for appetizers, three for entree and they have one for dessert. for our appetizer, it was really a no brainer for both of us when we saw diver scallop on the menu althought there i was momentarily tempted by the roasted beets but scallop won hands down.


appetizer | maine diver scallop . forbidden black rice. sweet & sour onions . brocolli sauce.

a diver scallop is a sea scallop that has been hand-picked off a rock by a scuba diver - hmm sounds delicious already. forbidden black rice is known as such because originally in china, it was considered the emperor's rice and it was forbidden for anyone else to eat it.


when the scallops arrived at our table, i couldn't wait to dig in but not before i savor the beauty of the plate. the scallops itself looked like it was given the right searing. the scallops were seasoned well - savory with a hint of its natural sweetness but didn't have a crust like i imagined it to have. the brocolli sauce was light and the forbidden rice was almost of risotto consistency and putting all the components into one bite gives a nice depth of rich flavors which is cut through by the sweet & sour onions. i thought the flavor of the scallop permeated the whole dish but ryan thought otherwise. overall, we were very happy with our choice to get a scallop each cos i wasn't gonna share this one with him..sorry! heheh.

entree | herb crusted lake superior whitefish . prawn brandade . grilled fennel . black garlic puree

i had to go searching to figure out what on earth is a brandade. according to foodwords.com brandade is 'a pounded combination of salted or smoked fish, olive oil, garlic, milk and cream.' the first time i encountered this word was at girl&the goat which came with my favorite scallops dish. (yes i am obsessed with scallops) but i don't think i tasted anything remotely close to fish-like. and neither is the one at boka. with further google-ing, i found that some countries add potatoes in their brandade - which is what the prawn brandade had. 


nonetheless, the delightful aroma that wafted through my nose was making my mouth drool. my first bite was somewhat anticlimatic, almost. i think it was all the expectation building up from the aroma that left me a lil disappointed. the fish was cooked perfectly but the dish itself was lacking a punch of herbacious flavor that i was hoping. the brandade reminded me of mashed potatoes with pieces of shrimp and that was delicious but i think the one that had most flavor was the black garlic puree that had shrimp flavor running throughout. grilled fennel tastes a whole lot different than raw fennel. it is sweeter and it lends a textural difference towards the dish. the overal dish was good but it wasn't as memorable as i hoped it would be.

entree | braided duroc pork belly . fried oyster . spicy bok choy . parsnip sauce . green tea soba noodles .

ryan opted for this entree instead of the grilled angus striploin since he had a filet of beef the night before at cafe des architectes. so he wanted to try something different. i have to say the fried oyster was probably a plus too. i requested for one for me since there were three on his plate. hehe


the first thing ryan commented was the spicy bok choy reminded him of kimchi which i thought was interesting. we exchanged plates so i could taste his dish and i thought that the braised pork belly while being fork tender was also lacking its own identity. the oysters were crispy and encased the natural savory flavor of the morsel but the cubed soba noodles didn't quite have a distinct green tea flavor. ryan had different opinions on the oyster which he thought was overfried a tad since he likes a lil rawness in oysters and he tasted the green tea flavor eventually with the noodles. we did agree on a few things though: we felt that the pork belly wasn't the main highlight of the dish and the parsnip puree was slightly too sweet for my liking for a savory dish.

sides| mac 'n' cheese . edamame ($7)


they asked us if we wanted to order sides to go with our three courses and ryan decided to try out their mac & cheese with four cheeses and edamame. it is topped with truffle bread crumbs to give it some crunch. i love the flavor of the truffle with the pasta although we were both trying to figure out what the function of the edamame in the dish since its flavor was overshadowed by the cheeses. to make it healthier? or maybe to add texture to the dish? whatever it is, the dish itself was delicious. cheesy but at the same time light.

dessert | ginger kulfi . chocolate . toasted meringue . tangerine .

the part of the meal that i was anticipating for the most. especially after my friend commented on how face mind-blowing it was. i envy chefs who can make their dish look so wonderful and this was like a work of art. btw, kulfi is a popular frozen milk-based dessert from india and pakistan which is often described as traditional indian ice cream in india.


the dessert comprised of ginger kulfi on top of graham cookie crumbs, flourless chocolate cake, toasted meringue and a segment of tangerine. boy, oh boy, this dessert was amazing. i love, love, love it! it wins hands down as the main highlight of our dinner and i thought 'whoah..what a way to end the meal'. the flourless chocolate cake was moist and packed with chocolate flavor, the toasted meringue was marshmallow-yand soft and the ginger kulfi had the perfect amount of ginger bite that worked as a palate cleanser as well. it was a very well thought out dessert - it's like a symphony for your taste buds. ryan even said that its one of the best desserts he's had at a restaurant. come to think about it, the components almost makes it like an adult version of deconstructed smores dessert.

BOKA was quite the experience. whilst the food exhibit extensive skills at cooking techniques, the entrees could use a lot more flavor punch that i always look for. one thing for sure is their dessert is uber awesome! :)

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others


Boka Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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