Tuesday, April 2, 2013

boka - chicago, il

1729 north halsted street
chicago, il 60614

about the restaurant:
- located in lincoln park (next door to alinea)
- the executive chef is former trotter's chef de cuisine giuseppe tentori
- the cuisine is "new american" and is served in both al a carte and tasting menu format
- one michelin star, three stars from the tribune
- boka is part of a restaurant group (boka restaurant group) which also includes balena, girl and the goat, gt fish and oyster, elaine's coffee call, the j. parker, little goat diner, and perennial virant.
details of our visit:
our meal at boka came before a sigur ros concert at uic, and prior to dining i emailed the restaurant to inquire if the full nine course tasting menu could be comfortably consumed in a 2.5 hour time frame. after being assured that there would be no issue, i booked a 5pm reservation. pictured below is the nine course chefs tasting ($115). for wine, we skipped the pairings and went by the glass. the restaurant was empty for the first half hour of our meal, but by the time we left it had filled to at least half capacity.
raw tasting

four different bites of raw seafood with various ingredients served in a bento box. this was a terrific start to the meal.
bread served with two types of butter
faroe island salmon, forbidden rice, celery root cream

this was a nice piece of salmon...perfectly fatty with crackling skin. really liked this course.
poached monkfish, housemade chorizo, crispy pigtail, english pea puree

this was anther solid course with the chorizo adding a welcomed spice.
quail, mizuna gnocchi, parmesan crisp, blood orange, sunchoke puree

quail prepared a few ways...tasted better than it looks
veal, peppers, zucchini puree, other ingredients

the veal had a nice fattiness to it reminiscent of pork belly, and the peppers were particularity good.
bison loin, spaetzle, artichoke

my least favorite course of the meal as both the bison and the spaetzle were pretty dry and bland
cheese course

a solid cheese course with chevre, preserves, honey, and bread.
the weston - templeton rye, dark matter coffee essence, pipe tobacco

i saw this listed on boka's website and knew i had to try this drink...i wasn't let down in the slightest.
wild citrus sorbet

reminded me of key lime pie...delicious!
tonka bean custard, apple cider sorbet, sous vide apples, stout sticks

loved the thick vanilla flavored custard and all the apple components.
peanut butter semifreddo, flourless chocolate cake, miso-soy caramel, pear

it is not often that a dessert course is my favorite of a meal, but it just may have happened at boka. if you are a peanut butter lover, you must try this. 

from my initial email to the restaurant to being put into a cab at meals end, the way we were treated at boka was perfect. our server was professional but also very friendly and conversant, asking us about ourselves as well as our plans for the rest of our trip. dish descriptions were very clear and confidently delivered, and things like water/crumbs/napkins were handled without fault.

aside from the bison dish, everything was good to very good with the raw tasting, salmon, and peanut butter semifreddo being the standouts. i found the heavier protein courses were the meals weakest and the pastry portion was the strongest. this was weird for me as dessert is normally my least favorite part of a meal.

overall thoughts:
boka definitely falls into my "glad i tried it" column. the experience as a whole was very good, but with everything else the chicago dining scene has to offer, a return to boka in lieu of going back to a favorite or trying someplace new is not something i see happening.


  1. I think Boka fares better when done a la carte. It's a caliber restaurant that knows how to cook but does not necessarily know how to tell a story.

  2. i get what you are saying, but at the end of the day i would always rather have nine courses than three.