Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I warn you upfront--I'm going to gush about this one, and as a result this posting will be longer than most.
Some of my favorite dining experiences are those unexpected times when we just happen to go to a great place. Peter and I met at Lowe's after work, in an attempt to choose a new kitchen light. Unsuccessful at making a purchase but full of new lighting ideas, we were both cranky and starving by 7 pm. Peter nonchalantly suggested Boca, which took no convincing to get me to agree. Skeptical that the always-crowded restaurant might not accept us, I called to first be told we'd have an hour wait (really? on a Wednesday?) but then convinced the hostess to hold one of the front tables for us if we arrived within 10 minutes. We got there in 5.
From start to finish, this dining experience was flawless. Truly, Boca ranks up there as one of our favorite, if not the single favorite, restaurants in Cincinnati. We were fans way back when they were located in a hole in the wall in Northside (now home to the delicious Honey). But, like Bangkok Bistro, this restaurant has a special place in our hearts because it is the first place we ever dined as a couple. As I've said in previous posts, it was a phenomenal first date, and one neither of us will ever forget. It made such an impression that as part of Peter's marriage proposal to me, he had my sister photograph him in all of the places we'd gone on our first date, holding signs that read "Will," "You" "Marry" and "Me?" A wonderful and touching surprise, evidenced by the photo above.
I could write an entire post about how great our server was. He was competent and knowledgeable about the menu, yet friendly like a guy next door all at the same time. When I inquired about specific ingredients in particular dishes and asked for his recommendations, he expressed informed opinions that showed he'd tasted everything on the menu and had passion for his real favorites.
We intended to have just a quickish sort of meal, but when we saw the newly expanded dinner menu we had a really difficult time choosing between our options and after ordering glasses of an Australian Shiraz, elected to go with four courses each (well, it started out as three and we added on dessert). I started with a seasonal special, the morel mushrooms with fiddlehead ferns in a cream sauce. It was to die for. The entire dish tasted like spring, with fragrant green flavors of the ferns and onion grass, earthy mushrooms, and a delicate yet rich sauce that I sopped up with my warm bread. Peter had the grilled romaine salad, one of our standbys, which didn't disappoint. The smoky, charred lettuce is a beautiful complement to the creamy caesar dressing with shaved parmesan topping.
Next we each had a pasta course, sharing between us appetizer-sized plates of what had to be homemade pappardelle (wide, flat pasta) with cinghiale (boar meat sauce) and a spring pea ravioli with butter basted lobster. The lobster "raviolo," as it's phrased on the menu, was divine. Sweet yet creamy, the sugar in the pea filling matched perfectly with the based buttery lobster. The pappardelle was delicious, but we couldn't honestly tell the difference between this and your average meat sauce made with ground beef.
For our third course, we couldn't escape without our real favorite, the scallops with carmelized Brussels sprouts (which the menu now indicates as "3-hour" sprouts), shaved parmesan and truffle oil. This is one of those dishes that is so distinctive and memorably good that I can close my eyes, think hard, and imagine its flavors on my tongue with minimal effort. I'd commit my first born child for this recipe. Our server was nice enough to split the dish between us so there wouldn't be any fighting, which was a wise move.
Not wanting the meal to end and being true conoisseurs of dessert, we chose to have both the classic mascarpone cheesecake with hazelnuts and a new dish: crispy waffle with apple fudge and vanilla gelato. The waffle was good but sounded a lot better than it tasted, and the cheesecake's smooth, light consistency won us over as it always does.
I drove by our old apartment on Erie on my way home, just for old time's sake.
The damage: More than I'd like to share, but not that much to pay for such a great dining experience that I'd put against any other I've had in Cincinnati and beyond. We're also very good tippers when servers prove their worth, so in short, it was a lot of money.
Watch out for: this place on Thursday-Saturday nights. If you're not in a "going out" sort of mood, this place can let its great reputation swell its head a bit too much.
Food: 5 forks - there's not a better meal in the city.
Romance: 5 kisses - there's no better place to go for a first date, a fifth date, or a fiftieth date.
3200 Madison Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45209