57 Great Jones St
(between Bowery & Lafayette St)
New York, NY 10012
I had been dying to check out this restaurant ever since I found out about it a couple of months ago but never had the time nor the foresight to plan ahead. You see, you need to have a reservation to eat here and you can’t get a reservation unless you know the phone number. Well, that seems obvious enough, except that Bohemian does not publish its phone number anywhere. The idea is that you have to go with someone who has been to the restaurant already. Once you’ve been, you’re added to the “circle” and are welcome to make your own reservations in the future. You can bypass this by simply showing up at their doorstep (what I did) and asking for a table (failed, of course). But rather than shoo me away, they gave me… a phone number.
The restaurant is tiny; it seats about 24 max but the owners don’t like to operate at maximum capacity. They want the place to always feel spacious… because apparently the goal isn’t to make money, but to create a homey space for people to connect and bond over food (pretentious or not, you tell me**). It’s located discreetly behind a butcher’s shop in a loft previously owned by Andy Warhol. You actually have to walk past the meat store, through a long corridor, to enter the hidden Bohemian restaurant. There’s no phone number and the restaurant is hidden. Exclusive enough?
Well, the thing is, after you get there and are warmly welcomed by the staff, seated, and made comfortable with fresh lemony scented towelettes, you’re in the in now and forget about all the pretension. We went with J.H., who now comes here at least once every two weeks. As an elite member of the circle, J.H. even has his own drink called the J-boy. We started off with a round of these, which was a concoction of riesling pear sorbet and cava (spanish sparkling wine), garnished with an orange rind. I’m kicking myself now for not taking notes on the ingredients or taking a picture of the menu because none of it is listed online. Of course it isn’t. Well, I’ll just have to use my super taste buds to paint a picture for you.
We all opted for the 5-course tasting menu ($55) which started with this vegetable fondue. The fondue was made of anchovies, butter, and cream cheese, and is seriously the best veggie dip I’ve ever tasted. It was creamy and not overpoweringly cheesy. It was not as viscous as most dips, which made it seem lighter, and it had just the right amount of anchovy saltiness to give it a little punch. Fear not, anchovy-haters, even LAW loved it, and he is the ultimate anti-smelly-fish man. My favorites of the vegetable medley were the white carrots and raddichio. The baby white carrots were crunchier and crisper than normal carrots. It had almost a radish-like consistency. The raddichio was crisp and slightly bitter, going very well with the creamy, salty dip. It also had a nice leafy tip for me to selfishly scoop up as much dip as I could.
We then had the Uni Mushroom Croquette, which was essentially a cream of mushroom paste fried into a ball and topped with a generous portion of fresh, sweet uni. As J.H. suggested, we all spooned a portion of just the raw sea urchin before devouring the rest so that we could taste the sweet delicacy on its own. And truly, the quality was good enough to be uni sashimi.
The center of the croquette was filled with a rich creamy mushroom paste, which kiiiiiiind of reminded me of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom, but yikes, I feel bad even bringing up Campbell’s because don’t get me wrong, it tasted delicious. The exterior was fried to crispy perfection and was very thin. The uni was soooo sweet and plentiful; if you rationed your bites well, you would be able to have uni+croquette in every bite.
Mac and Cheese (not part of tasting menu) beats S’mac any day. It came with two squares of buttery soft toast. I’m not really sure why because I didn’t feel that the heavy mac and cheese needed another carb to go along with it but both tasted great individually, it was just a strange pairing. The mac and cheese was made with traditional macaroni and some mixture of cheeses that included a tinge of gorgonzola. Super tasty but I think that a classic bread crumb crust would have made it better. The cheese was a bit watery… ohhhhh is that what the toast is for?
H.W. ordered a whiskey on the
rocks rock and the girls, including H.W. (alcoholic), ordered a lavender cocktail. This is probably the best cocktail I’ve ever had. I was already two J-Boy’s in and was feeling a little more buzzed than I normally am mid-dinner but this drink was a must. I believe it was vodka based and had some sort of pomelo or citrus fruit because you could taste small pieces of pulp. The lavender liquor was flowery and light, so summery and delicious! The cocktail was so complex and simple at the same time that I would actually sip on it and try to have it linger on my taste buds.
I didn’t care much for the charcuterie plate. Meats were very mediocre on their own and the pairings were not great either. All the meats were dense, thickly cut, and more or less tasted the same. A better charcuterie plate would have a range of thick and thin meats, fat and lean meats, salty and sweet meats, etc.
When the Short Rib Sashimi (a la carte menu) arrived at our table, I was surprised to find that it looked cooked to some degree. I was expecting purely raw beef. It came with a small dish of soy sauce and wasabi for dipping. The beef turned out to be barely seared on one side and completely raw on the other side, giving it a great scorched taste without losing the creamy taste of raw beef.
And the favorite of the night goes to the Whole Roasted Branzino with Vegetables. This is one of the best fish dishes I have ever had and I am a big, BIG fan of fish. The branzino meat was super fresh and tender and the skin was crispy and well seasoned. There were sooooo many vegetables, including brussels sprouts, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, onions, olives, and an entire bulb of garlic. Gosh, I’m salivating just writing about it. The vegetables were also all of the highest quality; all fresh, tender, and juicy. No strings attached. There really isn’t much more I can say. Branzino is a common fish, especially at Italian restaurants, but I have never tasted one so moist and sweet.
At this point in the meal, we were already pretty full. The Washugyu (apparently a mix of Kobe beef*** and Australian Angus beef) beef sliders should have come out a bit earlier because they were delicious but heavy. I couldn’t finish my medium rare ball of goodness but luckily LAW had an appetite for more. The sliders came with a side of fried potatoes which were suuuuuper yummy. I love a good potato. The potato was creamy (lots of creamy things here), well seasoned (high quality sea salt, I’m sure), and had a very crispy skin.
As if the normal potatoes weren’t enough… we also ordered a side of Fried Satsuma Sweet Potatoes. I was stuffed to the brim after the potatoes but these were necessary as well. Satsuma potatoes are different from American sweet potatoes in that they are less sweet, softer, and lighter in coloring. We couldn’t finish both the regular potatoes and the perfectly caramelized Satsuma potatoes so wrapped them up and took them home. They tasted a-m-a-z-i-n-g the next day at about 4pm during snack time.
ALMOND TOFU AND TAPIOCA!! Some of my favorite things in the world put together. This was the dessert from the tasting menu. The almond tofu was light and refreshing, exactly what I needed to help wash down all the grease from the meal. It was probably the only dessert I could have stomached at this point… except…
J.H. brought Molly’s Peach Cobbler cupcakes and had the restaurant bring it out on a cute heart-shaped wooden platter. I had never had Molly’s cupcakes before so assumed that I would just take a bite out of courtesy and stop there. One bite led to another… and then to another… and then I was convinced that this proved I have a second stomach for dessert. The cupcake was sooooo soft, moist, and peachy. The frosting was whipped so hard that it tasted like creamy air. We had two more cupcakes left over and I had them two days later and they still tasted delicious. This is probably the best cupcake I’ve had since Two Little Red Hens (yes I know, still need to write about that one).
After dinner, we were all full and happily buzzed from the delicious drinks. Because the restaurant is tucked away from the street and the restaurant is so small and cozy, I felt like time had stopped. I was living, breathing, dining, and laughing in static space. This “umami” feeling is truly magical and only something I get at certain places. And when that happens, I grow attached to the place. Although the food wasn’t all amazing (all were good but only the branzino and lavender cocktail truly stand out in my book), I had an overall fabulous experience. The meal ended up being $110 per person, which is a bit more than I think it was worth. The tasting menu is absolutely a bang for your buck for $55… we just strayed a bit and ordered a la carte, which proved to be pretty expensive. But hey, it was my first time and I needed the survey. I’ll be back again for my favorites.
We slowly made our way out and immediately, I was hit with reality. We said our goodbyes and LAW, H.W. and I biked on home.
*Of course, there’s no point in going there because the website gives you close to no information. It’s part of their whole secrecy thing.
**Conceptually, the restaurant does seem a little pretentious. Like I’ve said before, I’m all about the Ikea outlook: making great food accesible to everyone. However, after you enter this place and the chef and staff turn up the magic, you forgot about the pretension. You are not pampered but treated well enough and don’t even realize the exclusivity anymore. Perhaps this is what it is like to be in the “popular” crowd…
***Kobe beef does not exist in the U.S.. Read this article.