Okay, so school finally started today and from what I can tell its going to require quite a bit of my time, so the frequency of my posts may slow down a bit...thats not to say I wont be posting...just not every day. Theres some exciting stuff coming soon (?), as well as lots of events in Chicago.
Anyway, continuing my gluttonous tour of over the top & highly praised Chicago restaurants, I went to Boka last weekend for their 9 course grand tasting. I started with a barrel aged manhattan (aged in house for 2 months). After my drink at Graham Elliot I've been craving Manhattans. This was unusually smooth for a Manhattan and delicious. It seems that Boka's barman, Benjamin Schiller, has been making quite a name for himself and his bar. Later in my meal I picked a liquor and a flavor and he crafted some delicious cocktail that I have no clue what was in it other than sage and gin. On to the food:
Bread: Rosemary focaccia - this was the best bread I have had in recent memory. Perfect amount of rosemary, just crispy enough crust, salty...awesome. I had four slices (I rule)
My frist course was a bento box of raw samplings - clockwise from the top right: 1: Marinated snapper, crispy coconut crusted tofu, green tea soba noodle, pickled radish. 2: Shigoku oyster, American caviar. 3: Hamachi, blood orange, sunchoke puree, some chips (sunchoke maybe), black tobiko. 4: Bigeye tuna, eel terrine. The oyster & caviar was incredible..maybe the best oyster Ive ever had. The hamachi was also fantastic. The other two samplings were great but paled in comparison.
Seared Sonoma Valley foie gras, grilled banana, caramelized brioche, brioche puree, baking spice gastrique. I was told this was supposed to be reminiscent of banana bread pudding. I can see it. It was insanely rich and delicious - as would be expected with a foie preparation like this.
Maine diver scallop, forbidden black rice, cumin dusted lotus root, roasted zucchini puree. Everything on this plate was great. At this point I was super happy. Each course was great, tasteful, and exciting.
Scottish salmon, winter spinach, crayfish brandade, black garlic puree, crosnes, mussel & saffron foam - This plate was good. Im not a huge fan of black garlic, its flavor is VERY assertive and tends to overpower things. This was the first time I've had crosnes, and they're awesome. The brandade was great & the salmon was good.
Pheasant, beet braised kohlrabi, celery root, chestnut puree, truffle foam, black truffle - I was really excited when this was delivered, the description sounded so good. It was good...but not as mind blowing as I hoped.
Seared strip loin, crispy sweetbreads, moroccan ratatouille, creamy grits, collard green puree - All the individual pieces were really great - especially the sweetbreads and the creamy grits, but it didn't all come together as cohesively as I hoped.
Prickly pear sorbet, lime curd, tequila gelee - A brilliant and stunningly beautiful palate cleanser. Unfortunately the sorbet was a bit too sweet, leaving a lingering sweetness. Ive made prickly pear sorbet a few times and it is an unusually sweet fruit and makes for a bit of a tricky sorbet. Ive had bases that tasted great turn into horribly over sweet sorbets.
Spiced apple cake, honey crisp apple, vadouvan butter, walnut, yogurt gelato - This was a holy crap I can't believe how great this is kind of dessert. The vadouvan (essentially a french curry, with shallots) worked incredibly well - the yogurt gelato was perfectly tangy and refreshing..the cake moist and delicious. I would come back just to order this dessert.
Flourless venezuelan chocolate cake, hickory smoked chocolate gelato, cocoa nibs, pulp of cocoa pod - So this dessert was ruined by the gelato. I can totally see a smoked chocolate being awesome, but hickory was a strong flavor to pick and the smoke was overwhelming - becoming the only thing I could taste. Luckily I always try each individual piece to a dish before combining - because this was the first time I have had the fruit from a cocoa pod and it was incredible. Tangy, sour, faintly sweet with an afterthought of chocolate - unlike anything I have had.
With the check I was given a chocolate salted caramel and a cocoa nib meringue (that tasted suspiciously of cinnamon). Both were nice.
So thats Boka!