Since stepping fearlessly into the fine dining arena nearly 10 years ago, Boca has maintained a relentless dance floor throwdown of food, service, and ambiance. Directed with bracing energy and unbridled ambition by Chef/Owner David Falk and Executive Chef Jono Fries (who oversee the kitchen run by Chef de Cuisine Chase Blowers), diners are seduced by bewitching truffle-laced pastas or chubby pork shanks braised into submission; by the hip-forward strut of artisan ham tastings (including the current darling of pigs, the palate massaging Mangalitsa), or by the modest-but-never-humble preparations of branzino (a.k.a. loup de mer or European sea bass, paired with braised mussels and baby bok choy when we last had it).
From the street outside, Boca appears to be just another modish neighborhood restaurant. Stylistically speaking, it is. Intimate and inviting, the minimally adorned walls, posh textiles, and flickering votives are both unpretentious and a backdrop for drama, a performance the expertly trained Boca staff can be counted on to deliver nightly. Their Achilles’ heel? The presentation. Some of the dishes just don’t draw diners’ eyes.
Still, the law of attraction applies overall. You think you’re just ducking in to grab a couple of salads and cocktails, but what you get is a synergistic, customized happening. Because here, even a salad and a glass of wine can become a celebration. How often do you get the chance to extol the pleasure of a warm poached egg roosting on slender haricots verts, smoky bacon, and greens tossed in a mustard vinaigrette, or a lusty salad of Belgian endive, comté cheese, and caramelized onion tart? At Boca, it—and anything else—can happen nearly every night.
3200 Madison Rd., Oakley
Rank last year: 2
Photograph by Ryan Kurtz
Originally published in the March 2011 issue.