Behind this iron door is the most mysterious restaurant in New York City. When you walk past the butcher shop and into that dimly lit hallway with only a clouded glass door and a door bell at the end, it reminds you of how cryptic this restaurant really is. With an undisclosed phone number and the requirement of being referred by a friend who has eaten there getting a reservation is not easy. Exclusivity is normally pretentious and a little intimidating. However, it is understandable when the you are welcomed past that clouded glass door into this idiosyncratic, yet cozy space you'll notice there are only eight tables. This makes for an very intimate feeling as if you were dinning in someone's home, but this also means that you will need to make reservations weeks in advance for any chance of getting a table.
This literal East Village/NOHO hidden jem is tucked behind a Japanese butcher shop, in a building that was once owned by Andy Warhol. The building also served as the home and atelier of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Inside, the atmosphere is minimalist, yet very comfortable, The clean, stark white walls, the skylight, and the miniature Sen garden tucked into the corner gives a zen like quality to the space. So does the mixed couches, the illuminated wooden bar, and intriguing artwork hung throughout space. Bohemian gives off a familiar feeling of unpolluted simplicity and ease.
Like the space, the food is unique and extremely personal, serving dishes from the very traditionally Japanese like sushi and rice balls to the fusion of uni croquette. The menu is influenced by the Japanese love of seafood and the renowned U.S. raised Wagyu beef from Japan Premium Beef, the butcher that they share the building with. In tandem with the Japanese recipes are French dishes and some classic American comfort foods. These very different food styles are seamlessly woven together in their distinctive menu in a way that is intriguing and pleasant.
We ordered the Bohemian Tasting Menu. The first course was the farmer's fresh vegetable fondue, which consists of beautiful heirloom baby carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, radicchio, and radishes, stabbed into a mound of shaved ice. A cream cheese and anchovies act as the "fondue". Though I was very skeptical of the simplicity of raw vegetables and the strangeness of a fondue of cream cheese, it turned out to be a refreshing first course. The bright, crisp vegetables and the creamy, umami sauce are a symbiotic combination. This dish, however simple, let the superiority of each vegetable's complex flavor shine; just ornamented by the rich, savory sauce.
The next course was an Uni Croquette, which was a bomb of umami flavor. The croquette is filled with a gooey mushroom filling and coated with a crunchy crust. I think that the croquette was lacking any kind of flavor, so much so that I couldn't have guessed what was in it. The intense sea flavor of the uni is what saved the dish. This dish is very well balanced between the creaminess of the uni, the mushroom filling, and the crunch; the richness of the croquette and the freshness of the sea urchin.
Then, we had the Washu-Beef Short Rib Sashimi; perfectly sliced and accompanied by coarse sea salt, premium soy sauce, and pickles. The Washu-Beef is from the butcher shop at the front of the building. The supremely fresh meat is sliced so it is just thick enough that it has a slight chew to it, so that you taste and savor the meat. The pickles are sour and have a bright crunch that cuts straight through the full-bodied richness. Even the soy sauce was truly impressive; it is not just salty, but has a complex unctuous savoriness. The crunchy sea salt that is sprinkled on the meat adds a saltiness that balances the meatiness and adds texture to the dish.
The next course an option between a rice bowl or a burger....
One choice was the Ikura caviar rice bowl with japanese cucumber pickles and tosa-zu jelly. The rice bowl is a cold dish with a bright, sour theme that makes it a refreshing course to wrap up the meal after the substantive branzini. The rice bowl is rice toped with chucks of tuna, pickles, and jelly. The tuna was bursting with the flavor of freshness and the pickles add a tart crunch. The jelly was made of tosazu sauce, which is a Japanese vinegar that is typically used to add flavor to seafood dishes. The gelatinous tosazu is very clean tasting and does complement the tuna very well.
The other choice is Bohemian's Washu-Beef Mini Burger with fried potatoes. The meat used for the slider was of the highest quality and freshness and that is really projected in the flavor of the burger. The flavor of the patty was intense beefy and the burger was spewing with juices. With the burger came a few wedges of mini potatoes, fried until they were uber crispy, yet fluffy on the inside. The potatoes show how well prepared every aspect of the meal was.
The main course of this meal was the Pan Roasted Branzini. It is a roasted melody of baby potatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. The Branzini has a crispy-crunchy skin and moist, tender meat. The rosemary's perfume is laced into each bite and the roasted head of garlic acts as a caramelized sweet condiment. Rosting it in the cast iron skillet gives the brussel sprout a satisfying crunch and the potatoes were tender. The cremini mushrooms gave a surprisingly potent hit of a salty, meaty richness. This was my favorite dish of the night.
Dessert was a Yuzu pannacotta that was delicious. The yuzu fruit is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine, commonly used as a sauce. Here a lightly sweet, creamy pannacotta was topped with a harshly sour, yet sweet yuzu mixture. The combination of the two was a perfect paring. The creamy sweetness is tandem with the bright lemony flavor of the yuzu, concocted a harmonious dessert.
When my birthday was brought up the thoughtful waiter brought me a vanilla ice cream on a board saying "Happy Birthday" in chocolate calligraphy. The vanilla ice cream was creamy and pure, but moreover, this really sums up my experience at Bohemian. An at home atmosphere, with attentive wait staff, and premier food.