Guest Post By: Kathleen Drozdowski, The Seasonal Vegetarian
(kdrozdowski [at] gmail.com • @theseasonalkat)
I was recently (and fortunately!) asked by my good friend Marilyn to attend a preview dinner at the Boheme for their Valentine’s Day menu in her stead. As my husband and I had never been, but frequently heard about the restaurant, we were glad to accept.
The hotel was easy to find, a few blocks south of Colonial Drive, at Orange Avenue and South Street. When we arrived, we were brought to the art gallery that is located inside of the hotel. The gallery hosts the art of many talented people, in many different media including paintings, jewelry, and sculpture. Of particular interest to me were the paintings done with coffee (yes, coffee!). Those of us attending the dinner were shown about the gallery, introduced to the manager, and then whisked off to the Wine Room.
The Wine Room was the private dining room that could be reserved for up to parties of 12. The room boasted a small wine cellar, as well as lovely art and a mirrored wall that expands the spacious feeling. The art on the walls was painted in a certain way that made the paintings themselves appear luminescent when the lights were turned down.
When we entered, we were treated to a new cocktail featured at the Boheme restaurant, with lingonberries and champagne. The cocktail was fruity and sweet — a bit too sweet for my tastes, perhaps a little extra lemon juice would help — but if you’re a fan of sweeter cocktails, especially those with berry flavors, this is one for you.
After we were shown the Wine Room, we were guided through the Bösendorfer Lounge. The lounge hosts live blues and jazz acts and has a large and varied cocktail list and a “small bites” menu. This lounge has been on my wish list for a while now, and I think it’ll be up soon for a visit. As for the name, the lounge is named after the gorgeous Bösendorfer piano in the next room. It’s one of only two in the world, and it is the heaviest piano in the world. In fact, the room was built directly for the Bösendorfer piano to enhance the sound; if the piano is off center by just a bit, it wouldn’t sound right.
After the whirlwind tour through the hotel, we were guided to our table. Each couple had a place setting with their names on the menus, which was a nice touch! The Valentine’s Day menu is offered as a prix fixe menu with a choice for each course. The entire menu is available here in PDF form; though we didn’t taste each dish, we did sample a majority of them. If you can’t make it on Valentine’s Day but would like to sample the menu, it is being offered à la carte from February 10 through February 13.
As would follow the rest of the evening, the service was efficient, unobtrusive, and very friendly. As soon as we were seated, we were brought one of the two wines of the evening, the Kessler Collection Sauvignon Blanc by Marc Mondavi. The wine was a solid example of a sauvignon blanc, light and crisp with tropical fruit flavors. We were quickly brought the first appetizer choice, Oysters and Champagne. The oysters were finished with cucumbers, jalapeño, and sambal oelek (a popular Indonesian chili sauce), and served with a small portion of Veuve Clicquot champagne. The oysters were fresh and briny, with just a hint of spice and not overwhelming. Oysters are offered as one of the appetizer choices on the Valentine’s Day menu due to their reputation as an aphrodisiac. (Note: the pictures below all show the dishes as they will be served, the complete portion for one person.)
After we sampled the oysters, we were treated to the next two appetizer selections: Oriental Mussels and Venus Crab Cakes. The mussels were steamed and finished with a Thai curry coconut broth and crispy naan bread. I thought the naan was a little curious of an addition as they are an Indian bread alongside Thai curry, but my husband felt that it is familiar Asian bread to many Americans and wouldn’t seem out of place. The broth was rich and sweet from the coconut milk and had just a touch of spice, and the mussels were tender and flavorful. The crab cake was one of my favorite items of the night: largely free of filler, crisp on the outside and tender in the middle, with a lot of sweet crabmeat. The rémoulade was perfectly executed with briny capers, and the arugula salad provided a peppery note as a foil against the sweetness of the crab meat. The sauvignon blanc paired well with both of these dishes, light and crisp against the richness of the broth and rémoulade.
We had barely begun to enjoy the crabcakes when the next two appetizer selections were presented: Wagyu Beef Carpaccio and Giant Asparagus Spears. At this point, we were also poured the second wine of the evening, the Kessler Collection Cabernet Sauvignon by Marc Mondavi. The wine was flavorful with dark berry notes and little astringency. The carpaccio was definitely the winner of the two selections; the beef was thinly sliced, very tender, and was perfectly paired with arugula, capers, mustard aioli, and Parmesan cheese. Each bite melted in my mouth. In the other dish, the asparagus was cooked just right, tender and not stringy. It was paired with a sriracha-spiked hollandaise and thinly sliced prosciutto. The dish was simple and beautifully plated, as well as being light and delicious.
We were surprised to find at that point we had only sampled the dishes from the first course! Up next were three dishes from the soup and salad course: Aphrodite Salad, Roasted Pear Salad, and Love Potion Elesir (French for “elixir”) soup. I sampled the soup first: it was a light tomato and beef broth with diced tomatoes and thinly sliced fennel, spiked with a tiny amount of absinthe. Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables, but I hadn’t had the combination of fennel and tomato before — they went well together. I do like absinthe (along with fennel, anise, and black licorice), but even if you don’t, the addition shouldn’t scare you way from this soup; it’s a very small amount, and serves to enhance the fennel flavor. I felt that the broth could have used a little oil to boost the mouthfeel as I thought it was too thin, but the combination of flavors was delicious and the soup serves well if you need a light dish after a heavier appetizer.
The Roasted Pear Salad was the better of the two salads, mixed greens, goat cheese, candied walnuts and fresh berries topped with a sweet roasted pear half. The fruit was perfectly ripe, though I felt as with the soup, the salad could have had a little more fat or oil added, in the dressing and perhaps a little more goat cheese. As is, the salad felt a little unbalanced in its sweetness.
Unfortunately, the Aphrodite Salad fell flat. It features mixed baby greens with frisee added, halved grapte tomatoes, slivered almonds, feta, and an almond vinaigrette. The salad tasted overwhelmingly of sweetened almond extract, to the point where I felt I was eating salad-shaped marzipan. The greens and tomatoes were fresh, and the feta salty and tangy, but the dressing didn’t allow the flavors to come through. I felt that a simpler vinaigrette without any almond extract would be a better compliment for the salad.
We moved to tasting the main courses: Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass, Kiss Me Tender Filet Mignon, and New Zealand Rack of Lamb. The sea bass was a generous portion, with a sweet potato and Yukon potato mash, garnished with a beet reduction. The fish was tender, sweet, and lightly sweetened, and was perfectly offset by the beet reduction. If you like beets, you’ll love the beet reduction: rich and earthy, a burst of fresh beets. The mash was tasty but fell a little short of what I was expecting. A green vegetable would have been a welcome addition to this dish; Brussels sprouts perhaps?
The filet was crusted with slivered almonds and topped with Cambozola blue cheese – the name a combination of Camembert and Gorgonzola, as the cheese is a combination of a soft triple creme cheese and Gorgonzola. As with the Aphrodite salad, I felt that the almond flavor was too sweet and overwhelming. While the steak was a perfectly cooked medium rare, the almond extract and crust overwhelmed any beef flavor. The blue cheese was delicious and helped to cut through the almond some, but I think the steak would be better served if there was no almond extract in the crust. However, the carrot and potato mash was silky smooth; as I love sweet and Yukon potatoes but am not a huge fan of carrots, I was surprised to enjoy the carrot and potato mash much more than the mash that accompanies the sea bass. The zinfandel reduction tasted strangely smoky, almost like a barbecue sauce rather than a wine reduction.
The rack of lamb stole the show on this course. The lamb was gorgeously crusted with goat cheese and plated on a bed of asparagus risotto with a port wine reduction sauce. The lamb was full-flavored and lean, complimented by the savory goat cheese crust. The risotto was cooked just right, richly flavored with asparagus; along with the port wine reduction, made a well-composed dish for the lamb. If you like lamb, and even if you don’t, you’ll love this dish — even my husband who can take lamb or leave it, said that this was his favorite.
Finally, the dessert course came rolling out! We were all ready to roll out ourselves at this point, but of course in the interest of science, we had to sample each dish. The three dishes we tried were: Toblerone Chocolate Fonduet, Caramelized Bananas, and Passionate Puffs. We were also presented with a small tasting of Rosa Regale sparkling sweet wine to pair with this course. The fondue was a simply prepared but fresh selection of “dippers” – strawberries, pineapple, marshmallows, almond biscotti, bananas, and rolled lace cookies – to dip in a Toblerone fondue. The chocolate was perched over a small tea light to keep it melted as you dip. Although it’s chocolate, the dippers keep this dish light — especially with the fresh fruit.
I don’t like bananas at all, but I did taste the Caramelized Bananas. To my surprise, they were less sweet and starchier than your average supermarket banana. Because of this, the vanilla bean ice cream and brandy sauce paired well and did not make for an overly sweet dish. The last dessert we tried, Passionate Puffs, were three very large cream puffs filled with white, dark, and milk chocolate mousse, respectively. The choux pastry was light and tasty, but I thought it was overshadowed by the large amount of mousse inside each puff. Each chocolate mousse was delicate and chocolatey, but had a higher ratio of filling to pastry than I usually like in a puff pastry. The Rosa Regale served did pair well with each dessert dish, of course!
As mentioned before, service was very well done. We were able to ask as many questions as we liked, greeted and answered in a friendly and competent manner, and our dishes and silverware were efficiently whisked away and replaced at each course. We barely had to think that our glasses were running low before they were filled with either water, soft drink, or wine. Once we stood up from our seats, we were also able to see the rest of the dining room; the interior of the restaurant is modern, yet cozy with intimate lighting, and the seats at the table comfortable.
If I had one issue with the dinner, it’s that if a dish had almonds in any way, it overtook the rest of the flavors on the dish. I think a large scaling back of almond extract, or even elimination and reliance on almond flavor from the almonds themselves, would have made those dishes much more enjoyable. That said, the food and service would make for an excellent Valentine’s Day dinner, whether you can visit on the day itself for the prix fixe or on one of the days leading up for the menu à la carte. A stop in the Bösendorfer Lounge for pre- or post-dinner cocktails wouldn’t steer you in the wrong direction, either!
Unfortunately my husband and I already have long-standing Valentine’s Day plans, but we did agree that we would be back soon – we’re thinking that the Jazz Brunch sounds right up our alley!
Disclosure: The food mentioned in this post was paid for by The Boheme, although the views and opinions expressed in this post are purely that of the author, Kathleen Drozdowski. This post was not reviewed by The Boheme in any way.