Sunday, May 4, 2008

BoMA - The Bar of Modern Art, Columbus Ohio

The building is amazing, the food is possibly the best in the city, parking is affordable and ample, the desserts are stunning, and the art is actually quite appealing in the setting of stained glass and dark drapes. I want to give BoMa 5 stars, I really do....but I can't.

To begin, BoMa is exactly what the name indicates; a Bar of Modern Art. Set in an old renovated church, each room contains multiple pieces of contemporary arthung tastefully and subtley, yet certainly not hidden. The pieces range from deco to traditional and sculpture to installation. While none may blow you away, the effect is nice as a whole. The scene is completed with a solid LuisArmstrong/Miles Davis soundtrack that is loud enough to notice, but also easilyignored. At the center of the ambiance is the restaurant in the loft and a 'main floor' below complete with video screens, draped beds, and private booths. I'm certainly not a club-goer by any means, but the whole setting is very sensual and I'm sure the place gets hopping at night. Tables are wood and seating is comfortable, athough the creeky floors can be a bit disconcerting at times.

With the scene painted, the main event is certainly the food. A small menu of unique presentations, BoMa shines in its delivery. Bread service was prompt and two types of bread (note to all restaurants, more variety is welcomed) were served with an incredible whipped butter infused with blood orange and peach. Three baskets later, no wonder we were so full afterwards! For appetizers we opted for the Ahi Tuna with Avocado, Sesame Oil, Achiote Vinaigrette in a coconut with banana chip and Peanut Butter and Jelly Foie Gras with Roasted Cashew Butter, Grand Marnier Marmalade, and Black Pepper Honey.

Having tried Tuna Tartare at a myriad of restaurants, I can legitimately say this was the best both in presentation and in taste. The long fried/dried bananas served as scoops for the incredibly fresh and tasteful tuna which was perfectly chilled in a coconut on a bed of ice and infused with a sweet oil/avocado blend. In a dish that has become increasingly common, the uncommon nature was delectable.

Like the tuna, the foie gras was wonderful. Served on a honey toast with crunchy cashew butter and an incredibly sweet marmalade, the foie was perfectly seared and tender. When eaten as individual components, the flavors were all very potent, and when eaten together the overall effect was bliss....the fatty smoothness of the liver, the crunchy cashews, and the sweetness of the marmalade, and the crisp bite of the toast. In all honesty, after the appetizers, I didn't think things could taste better.

The meals we opted for included Sustainable Salmon with Maryland Crab Wontons, Wild Mushroom and Scallion Saute, Blood Orange Soy Butter and Tanglewood Farms Chicken with EVOO whipped Potato, Saute Swiss Chard and Chorizo and Corn, Sage, Chevre pan Sauce. Both dishes were plated simply yet beautifully and both tasted fresh and delectable. The chicken was moist, tender, and flawless. Pounded flat and quickly pan fried, the crispy outside contrasted sharply with the silky potatoes and pan sauce. A hint of salt and a whole lot of spice blended wonderfully and made this a very pleasant dish, if not overly exciting compared to the flashy appetizers.

The salmon was perfectly prepared and without a hint of fishiness and the mushrooms were rivaled only by those served at Dragonfly in terms of taste/texture. The blood orange butter was particularly wonderful and added a beautiful tartness to everything. The wantons however, lacked filling and flavor...a small disappointment. With two courses of such quality, dessert was a no brainer....and the best decision of the night.

I selected the Chocolate Passion 'with layers of passion fruit, chocolate mouse, and cream over decadent fudge cake.' In a word.....amazing...There is really no other way to describe the myriad of flavors in the dish. The chocolate shell was bitter sweet and surely 72% or better dark chocolate, the passion fruit cream light and refreshing, the mouse flawlessly smooth, and the cake dense, warm, and oozing. While the dessert options at Rosendales, M, and Worthington Inn are all good, this may be my new favorite choice in Columbus. For those interested, a similar dessert is served on weekends at McCormick's at Easton, albeit more pricey and less delicious.
My sister opted for the Goat Cheese Cake atop Short Bread Crust finised with Fig marinated in Port Cherry. Expecting a tiny tart, we were both amazed by not only the size, but the flavor of this well crafted dessert. The cake was smooth and crumbly, the port cherry was sweet and poignant, and perfect figs in Ohio in May? The only thing that could have made this better is a scoop of Jeni's goat cheese and cognac icecream on the side.

Overall, everything above was perfect and well worthy of a 5 star review, but two missteps along the way were too much to overlook. First of all, the coffee was terrible....and $3 a cup. For those who know me, I order coffee at nearly every meal out, and while Spagio has one of the best I've ever tasted, BoMa certainly has one of the worst. Thick, bitter, and acidic....I realize this is a bar, but I doubt even a shot of Baileys or Kahlua could have made this 'good.'

Secondly, our server Daniele was either new, bad, or having a bad day. While my chicken was indeed delicious, we later overheard a neighboring table told the special of the day was an olive oil basted Ostrich that sounded incredible. When asked why I was not informed of this dish, the excuse of "we didn't know it would be ready" was offered.....ironic since the table on the other side of us had arrived 30 minutes earlier and had eaten and raved about the ostrich. I understand forgetting, but certainly not lying. Additionally, although she only had 2 tables for the first hour, water was refilled very slowly and we had to ask a different waiter for a refill of the bread basket. As a plus, the manager did stop by to chat and comped our desserts for her failure to mention the ostrich, plus the waitress did offer an apology as we left.

All in all, I'd HIGHLY recommend BoMa as a wonderful and unique option for dining in Columbus. I have no idea how it gets as things get more crowded, but provided the servers are on their game there is little doubt that the ambiance, scene, and food will impress.

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