Boka Restaurant Group’s flagship has always been the most significant, capital-R restaurant in the company’s impressive portfolio (which includes heavy hitters like Bellemore and Swift & Sons), but that doesn’t mean it’s deadly serious. The dining room features a framed portrait of Bill Murray in full sea-captain regalia, a dizzying black-and-white-tile floor, and a vibrant green plant wall.
Chef Lee Wolen’s cooking is profound. It’s also clean, subtle, and straight-up beautiful. He breathed new life into the restaurant the second he took over the kitchen in 2013. His beef tartare, showered in tendrils of shaved cured egg yolk, is an exercise in restraint, an elegant preparation that lets the mineral flavor of the beef shine through. Similarly, pastry chef Meg Galus takes simple flavors and adds subtle amplifications without going overboard, as in the downy goat’s milk pavlova, glossy with olive oil and well-salted caramel, which temper the dessert’s dairy sweetness. It’s serious food that, much like the restaurant’s cockeyed decorative accents, can’t help but make you smile.