[October 15, 2013]
Dear softrice fan:
I have a new coin collecting hobby. Along with the best of my world, I share my new toys with Honey. Her ticket into the game was one of my favorites, the 2013 Silver Panda from the Chinese Mint. This is the first year that three pandas appear on the coins. I also like the Huangshan coins, but they are prohibitively expensive to add to my collection, because you would either have to buy a kilo or in sets of four. The superior option for lover to experience the scenic beauties of Yellow Mountain will be my vacation there next March.
Unlike a faithfully patient lover, Honey is always cheating on me. She takes my best and shares it with her girl friends. Her most recent affair was an accidental visit to our Socarrat. They were having oysters next door and decided to have convenient paella afterward. When Honey saw the Jack, Queen, and King figurines on the business cards, it was too late to reserve only our memories at the Spanish restaurant chain (although they visited the midtown rather than our Chelsea location). Their defiling meal was a Seafood Paella. Honey liked its lack of cilantro, but her heart could not forget the tastiness of our cheese. Only softrice makes the home run.
57 Great Jones Street
New York, NY 10012
A problem-solver by nature, I have the perfect solution. I would bring Honey to a secret and exclusive restaurant, which will automatically block out her random walk-in affairs. Hence, our arrival at Bohemian, the little known Japanese steakhouse. Its exterior betray no hints of a restaurant. Their public identity is a premium butcher shop, selling luxury cuts of Japanese beef. Only the persistent would undress their alias and benefit from its greater purpose for being.
I lead Honey down their left hallway to an electronically coded gate. A firm female voice questions our arrival through the speaker. They only accept referrals from previous dining guests, so business spreads by word of mouth. Fortunately for me, my handsome face and charming personality has won me many strategic girl friends. Wenky gave me their number to make a reservation, and she also vouched on my behalf. Satisfied with our response, the gate opens, and a cute Japanese girl ushers us into their culinary sanctuary. Only breaking into a bank vault or opium production factory would require the same security clearance.
Bohemian inhabits a one-story lounge space. The bar fits six, which becomes unbearably noisy when ice is being shredded by the machine to make drinks. Two big tables and sofa-seats make a vertical line on the left, while two medium tables and three two-tops form two horizontal lines to complete the room. The chairs are uncomfortable short, rendering it a painful meal. Lastly, there is a transparent rooftop, but there is no view.
All of its negatives are instantaneously erased with the presentation of a cute waitress. The Japanese girl is more eye-candy than meets the apple pie. Honey assesses the threat level to cute rather than beauty. However, my heart falls for cuties more so than beauties anyway. She will do.
Honey is honored by the opportunity to share another first time with me. Fearful of her response, I carefully monitor her lips as she moves toward her prey. Mouthfuls of the creamy goodness filled her with ecstasy. Honey will remember me forever, because this hot mess was a deep-fried orange ball of cheesy richness. The Uni Croquette was neither slimy nor metallic, perfect for a beginner to the world of sea urchins.
A meal without alcohol is a yacht party without bathing suits. On this philosophy, Honey washes down with an SBC cocktail. It is supposed to be strawberry and basil, but she simply hates the tomato juice result. Although Bohemian does have a dessert wine menu, nothing catches my eye (except the cute waitress). I have the next best thing, the Mint Gold, and conclude that cocktails are only good for noise here.
The crack of the house was Bohemian’s Mac & Cheese. Honey was terribly in love with the cheese, so much so that salt and pepper was its only distance from perfection. The twin tomato toasts were light and refreshing too, useful compliments to scoop oozing goodness from our macs. If you can replicate this at home, you have the keys to her heart.
On the underwhelming side of the story is the Miso Black Cod. Legendary Yelp reviews proclaim this fish to be greater than all who came before. Yet it is a strong, thick, cod brick. The meat is not so delicate that it falls off with the slightest touch. The modest attempt has crispy skin and cheesy mashed potatoes, but no cod kingdoms fell this night. Nobu and Megu retains their crowns.
The bread and butter of Bohemian are the premium cuts of Japanese beef. Our cute Japanese waitress brings out a wooden board, shaped in a cow, and divided into sections for easy ordering. I go one level above easy and have the pretty girl decide for me. Our waitress recommends the Washu Beef Steak – 11.2 oz Culotte, which is the upper back of the cow. (An 11.1 oz option was available for $1 less, but since this was Honey’s birthday dinner, I splurged and went the extra mile to show her how much she means to me.) Because Honey does not eat raw meat, we ordered the steak to medium well.
The Culotte was steak at its purest. Condiments used to cook the meat included a stick of rosemary, fried garlic on the side, and boulders of golden fried potatoes buried underneath. Sea salt came on the side if you need extra flavoring. I prefer the steak as it is – tender, soft, and juicy. The lean meat was cooked to an attractive rose coloring, delightful to the eyes, and exceptionally edible to Honey’s preferences as well.
Honey and I made the mistake of ordering an extra side of Sweet Potatoes rather than replacing the Fried Potatoes on the Culotte. They were both crispy good and much to our liking, but if you did the math on all our food divided by two modest appetites, our eyes were wider than our stomachs. And we were saving space for the best part of the meal!
When our cute waitress presented us with the dessert menus, I purposefully drop a line for Honey to choose her birthday cake. The waitress would make for a great girlfriend, because she picked up on all my cues and seamlessly handled everything in the background. After we chose our desserts, she made sure everything was super special for us to mark the occasion.
An impressive sign of universal preparation came in the form of a heart-shaped wooden serving board. “Happy Birthday” and “musical notes” were a silent song of well wishes for my dining companion, written in chocolate letters. Accompanying the romantic gesture are Honey’s actual sweets. Her favorite creme brulee came to life as the Sweet Potato Creme Brulee, partnering alongside a scoop of Salty Caramel Ice Cream with a candle for her birthday wish. I am already her healthy and happy wish come true, so she adds that may we play together forever and always.
Bohemian’s dessert menu is neither extensive nor exotic, so I chose two ice cream flavors over their cakes. The eternal optimist in me also thought that ice cream would be a refreshing lightness to wash away the prior heaviness from the red meat and potato farms. My first choice is the Middle West Whiskey Eggnog. This holiday flavor reinforces the specialness of tonight.
My second ice cream flavor was to elevate the fairytale beauty of our time together. All is said in the name of Cinderella Pumpkin. Life is a series of magical moments, defined through sweet desserts shared with the one and only softrice. The salty caramel, the eggnog, and the pumpkin were all great ice cream, yet none were as rich and satisfying as me. Our time together was a bubble of eternity, to which Honey had no fear of turning into a pumpkin after midnight.
The concept of a secret Japanese steakhouse is a solid sell. A welcomed plus is good food on top of the gimmick. Yet there are still more drawbacks than there are positives. The space may be cozy, but uncomfortably so. The restaurant is exclusive, at the price of unbearable banshees ricocheting within the trapped room from every large movement. I would want to come back with lover to try their branzino special, but I do not have the heart to make her suffer through such uncomfortable seats. I want to taste another cut of the cow with Honey, Prima, or May-Ling, but we would have to mentally train for torture beforehand. In summary, although we want to return, Bohemian makes it difficult and uninviting to do so.
Honey maintains a list of her Top 5 Restaurants – River Cafe, Fishtail, One If By Land, Two If By Sea, Craft, and Four Seasons – in that order. The steak at Bohemian is good enough to join her ranks of Peter Luger and Del Frisco’s, but they all fail to break into the Top 5. Honey plots her next steak target, Landmarc, to taste bone marrow for the very first time, while I need a plan to topple and replace her very best experiences ever.
The receipt at the end of our meal was an old school love note. Our cute waitress hand-wrote everything. “Love you until the end of time. Call me anytime,” signed by Akiko. Maybe I do need to revisit Bohemian, often too.
Always in a puff of smoke,