Boka Kitchen and Bar
1010 First Ave.
Seattle WA 98104
Upscale Locale with a Retro, '50s Era Twist
By: Steve G
Located on 1st and Madison, Boka kitchen and bar is one of the new kids on the block with very vibrant look, utilizing contemporary design with a bit of googie-inspired architecture. They seem to be in love with curves as you'll find very few corners inside this place, except for the bar. There's a fantastic centerpiece of crystal bamboo that is engulfed is a myriad of ambient lighting which is quite a sight to see. Colors are constantly changing and pulsating throughout the restaurant giving it an almost nightclub feel to it.
We really loved alligator skin chairs that were comfortable enough to sit in for days and the classic jazz playing on the speakers made us all feel like we were part of the famous rat pack. It's a great jumping point for people before heading off to Belltown to engage in the bar hopping. If you're not in the mood to partake in the night scene madness, it's also a relaxing spot to simply hang out with some friends over a few drinks.
Boka's menu sports a variety of contemporary American dishes with a Northwest style. Some of the most popular items on the menu are found on the Urban Bites menu with such dishes as the short rib sliders and sugar cane skewered crab cakes. That's great for people with smaller appetites, but we wanted to see what kitchen really had to offer.
We started off with the Red Wine Risotto and Apple/Endive Salad for starters. For entrees, Bryan ordered up the Spiced Lamb Stew, Grant tested out their Sockeye Salmon, and I opted for the Crispy Duck Leg.
With a thick buttery texture, the red wine risotto had a very sweet taste to it. The fresh parmesan cheese added a nice savory touch, but the red wine reduction didn't do the dish justice as it ended up being a distraction for Bryan with its syrupy texture.
The apple and endive salad was made with thin apple sliced mixed with endive, blue cheese, and red cabbage in a light vinaigrette. Much like the risotto, it too was a little disappointing. The taste was a bland with the only exception being the blue cheese. The red cabbage and endive seemed to be relegated to being simply filler with nothing going for it in the taste department.
Bryan best described the spiced lamb stew as rich and hearty with one of the most intense flavors of lamb he's ever had. Prepared with minced lamb served on top of a bed of couscous with a hint of saffron with some pea sized white grape olives, each piece of meat was infused with the spices of the broth. And although the meat was a tad bit stringy, it was considerably tender, all due to the broth of course. The couscous was lacking in the flavor department and only seemed to be along for the ride to provide a little bit of texture to the dish.
Though it was a little more dry than he would have liked, the sockeye salmon was baked and served with black lentils and bacon vinaigrette. Though flavored with a variety of fine herbs and vinaigrette, the taste really seemed to be lacking. A little bit of the protein was coming out of the fish, which was a tell-tale sign of overcooking. It's comparable to salmon at other places, but not the most definitive experience of fish that Grant has eaten.
With a name like crispy duck leg, it's pretty obvious what you're going to get. The dish consisted of duck with a quince glaze with a side of velvety red cabbage and some fingerling potatoes. The arrangement of the plate was fantastic, but I'm more a substance over style kind of guy and in that regard it came up a little short. All of the sides were fantastic. The potatoes were lightly seasoned and the red cabbage was very smooth almost like Billy Dee Williams in a Colt 45 ad. The duck itself was great on the outside, but as I got further into it, it became more dry and tough. You'll find yourself constantly going for the quince glaze to add that much needed moisture to it. The duck is great to look at, but something I wouldn't really recommend.
Overall, you're paying a lot more for looks than substance here. Plates will run you about $30 plus drinks. The dishes weren't as fantastic as we hoped for, but were mildly enjoyable. The ambiance at Boka is the best thing going for it and the service is great as well. It's a good place to lounge with friends in its very chic environment, but you might want to stick solely to the urban bites.