La Vie de Bohème

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"I'm a girl from a good family who was very well brought up.
One day I turned my back on it all and became a bohemian."
- Brigitte Bardot   

Sometime in the 19th century, the word Bohemian changed in meaning from a group of people with roots in the Kingdom of Bohemia to another that's cut off conventional ties and chosen to lead the free, pleasure-seeking life of a wandering bon vivant. It is in the latter sense of the word that one feels immersed in while dining in the clandestine restaurant Bohemian in New York.
Bohemian is the brainchild of Play Earth, a company with a mission to create "hideouts in those favorite places we stumble upon while freely traveling the world." So far, Play Earth has a secret resort in Bali, Indonesia, as well as hidden spots in Nishiazabu, Japan and here in New York. The New York hideout is situated in a location with bohemian pedigree—the property was once the home and atelier of graffiti-artist turned painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, and before that it was owned by Andy Warhol, the man who helped propel Basquiat to fame.

These days, the space is a wellspring of good food and drinks—that is, if you can get in. One part of Bohemian's appeal is its exclusivity: a party can only be seated with a reservation, and the address and phone number are not listed. If you can get it from someone who's dined there before, then lucky you. You're in for a treat.

You know you're in a spot that's not messing around when your scotch arrives looking like this:

While the drinks in this place deserve high marks, it's the food that's the star of the show. Our opening salvo made us sit up and take notice. The uni croquette is a breadcrumb-encrusted flavor bomb, filled with wild mushroom and topped with a piece of fresh, buttery sea urchin.

The black cod was perfectly moist, flaky, and saturated in umami miso flavor. That it comes with a side of uni-spiked gratin doesn't hurt either.

My favorite plate was impressive in its simplicity: short rib sashimi, which was lightly marbled, fresh, and succulent. Bohemian shares space with Japan Premium Beef, which is the exclusive supplier of Washugyu beef, so order as much of the top notch meat as your wallet can handle. 

I went to Bohemian with a group of friends, which was nice because we got try a variety of things. Had I only ordered the mac n cheese and oysters, I would've felt disappointed as neither was exceptional. But as two among many dishes, they were some pretty good nibbles.

In keeping with the eat-as-much-meat-as-humanly-possible gameplan, we ordered tri-tip steak, which arrived at our table a perfectly rosy medium rare. I love how the steak was presented without much fanfare; it's unnecessary when the meat is this good.

The branzino, flown in from Greece daily, did not need much embellishment either. It was simply grilled and served with anchovy filets, kalamata olives, cipollini onions, rosemary stalks, roasted garlic, and fingerling potatoes. Delicious.

And finally, the coup de grace: seared foie gras on firm and perfectly chewy cold soba. Truthfully, we bit off more than we could chew by ordering 4 servings for a group of 6. That bowl of pure hedonism was perfection—but after a meal as decadent as what we had, the spirit may have been willing but the body was waving the white flag.

If turning bohemian equates to a devotion to pleasures as sweet as this meal, then I'm so sorry Mom and Dad. I may well follow Miss Bardot's footsteps.

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