If Sotto, located in the basement below, is a kind of peasant farmer, Boca is its aristocratic counterpart. Where Sotto thrives in its crowded candlelit cellar, Boca—with its grand staircase, chandelier, and floor-to-ceiling draperies—has an atmosphere of grandeur and refinement. Often a destination for people going to the theater or the opera, there is a sense of drama not only in the decor but in everything chef-owner David Falk and pastry chef Megan Ketover serve.
In some dishes, there is a painterly sense of contrast and surprise, like violet-derived purple sugar beside the pain de Gênes (French almond cake). In others, there is a dramatic suspense in the dish itself, like the whole egg yolk quivering in the center of the Fassone tartare waiting to be broken. From gingerbread-infused bourbon in one cocktail to the nest of fried parsnips surrounding the tartare, the effort made on every element of the meal is completely apparent (Falk has called himself the “champion of blowing people away,” after all).
While staying mostly grounded in the fundamentals of Italian and French cuisine, Boca has an air of international sophistication that sets its food apart. The hamachi crudo, an old standby on the menu—and to me, one of the city’s great dishes—takes Japanese flavors and gives them dazzling new dimensions. With a wasabi ponzu dressing and compressed avocado, the dish is like a deconstructed sushi roll, but grapefruit suprêmes and slivers of shishito pepper give it an exciting frisson of freshness and vibrancy. This is food of extraordinary creativity and flair. The only danger is that it might end up being better than the show you’re going to see.
114 E. Sixth St., downtown, (513) 542-2022, bocacincinnati.com