Boca is one of the few restaurants, especially in Cincinnati, that completely satisfies our strict (and slightly neurotic) criteria for the perfect meal: good service, quality food, thoughtful presentation, strong flavors, proper lighting, tasteful furnishings and a real kick-ass chocolate dessert.
Can I stress the kick-ass chocolate dessert here? In fact, if we know that a restaurant has a great dessert, our meal often becomes secondary. We just pass through it without interruption. No sauce that brings down the house. No stunning seasoning that makes me comment with a mouth full of food. It's just the winding path you must follow to get to the buried treasure.
Boca is not most restaurants. Every step of the way is a joy. The service is good. Every server knows his or her way around the menu and is always willing to suggest a stand-out dish or dismiss a less interesting one.
The appetizers are good. There are two stand-outs: Tuscan Toast and Boca Fries. Picture, if you will, fresh Italian bread made crispy in olive oil with separate sides of roasted garlic, olive tapenade and anchovy mayonnaise. Now turn your attention to the crisp, flaky new-potato fries. Don't take sides. Take both.
It's at this point that I usually notice how loud Boca is. The sparse decor and hardwood floor (straight from a school gymnasium) make for quite a noisy place. We love that.
The entrées are good. Some people complain about the slow rotation of the main courses. Well, the way I look at it, all of them are quite tasty, and Boca isn't cheap. If you've grown tired of the entrée selections, you have way too much money and time.
And if you've never eaten at Boca, there's usually something for everyone: fish, beef, vegetarian, lamb, chicken and the like. All are prepared with interesting presentation and strong, flavorful spices and sauces.
The dessert is good. I guess I should say the desserts are good, but I'm not really sure if they have more than one. Once you've had the Boca Negra, everything else pales in comparison. Chocolate is an art in my house, and this is the finest Monet -- dense, dark, intense flour-less chocolate torte with a chocolate bourbon sauce. I've seen people shake in anticipation. I usually ask her to stop so she won't get embarrassed.
Since 1996, we've expanded our FOB (Friends of Boca) base by dragging every acquaintance and family member to the restaurant. Why not? Boca is one of the few sure things in the inconsistent world of food and dining.