At the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 10th is Bobo. It is hard to miss. The door is under the stoop where there is usually a homeless man sitting since the building above appears to be uninhabited.
Bobo is one of the handful of restaurants that opened this season that got the usual early fanfare and hype. We had friends coming in town, so I called early and got the reservation. Could this be a winner? Not.
The atmosphere is intimate. Eclectic decor. The restaurant is in the downstairs and second floor of a townhouse. The ceiling is low. A bar takes over half the first room where there are few tables spread around for dinner patrons. There is a secondary room in the back that has a wall with openings on both side that allows for circulation which lets the patrons in the back get away from the bar scene if only for a small time.
We were seated at the table in the back directly behind the wall. The hostess said it was her favorite table. You can peer into the open windowed kitchen from that seat and see the big jars of lemons sitting in the entrance. The whole restaurant looks like someone collected for a variety of years at estate sales. Interesting.
We sat down and immediately could smell that steak was burning. Are the fans working back there? After all, this is an old townhouse. Luckily, the smell quickly subsided.
They were already out of a bunch of wines but we finally found one. The menu begins with sharing options for the table, then appetizers, then pastas, then main courses. I was intrigued with the cheese, honey, and brown walnut bread plate. Truth is, after we got it, I realized that this should have been on the dessert menu so nobody ate much of it. Maybe our waiter should have said something. The presentation wasn’t that interesting either. A rectangular brown basket lined with linen and four cheese randomly places and some grapes in the middle and figs scattered about with some brown bread. It didn’t look like it came out of a kitchen where a chef is trying to make a mark. I should have picked the frutti di mare maybe that would have been more appropriate for the first round.
We had a mixture of appetizers. I had the shaved vegetable salad with ricotta salata and balsamic vinegar. Boring, bland and no bite. My friend went with the warm goat cheese salad. Same thing. Simple and bland. Fred went with the figs and prosciutto roasted with cheese. Not good. The figs tasted as if they had been burnt. Another was the steak tartare. I didn’t taste that but I did not hear raves coming from the other side of the table. Steak tartare is tough but if done right it can be fantastic and creative at the same time. Neither fit this bill.
Dinner was basically the same thing. Two of us had their version of Coq au vin. Chicken with red wine sauce, bacon and mashed potatoes. I asked for the plate sans mashed potatoes, and so did my friend but they gave her the mashed potatoes in this round red cup. Didn’t look to appetizing. The chicken was too rich and too much. I ate half which was plenty. Fred went with the suckling pig which is one of my favorites. The pig was not that flavorful and the sides didn’t have any depth. The last person went with the steak which was given a thumbs down for taste.
Dessert, why not. Maybe it was all the wine. Olive oil beignets served with a roasted fruit sauce. Bland, not sweet and the beignets were far from light and airy. The tartin was more of the same. Heavy handed crust and thick apples. Usually when I drink and then order dessert, I finish everything to the last bite. Not here. One bite and then a second of each to confirm that it wasn’t worth the calories. Such a bummer.
Although the food wasn’t that good what was frustrating is what happened as the night wore on. We were in the back room, away from the bar. The bar was so packed that people started to bleed into the back room. So we now have a host of about 10 people milling around the side of our table using the back room as an extension of the bar. As we made our way out, I felt for the people who were sitting in the bar area. I could barely make my way out of the room getting around the table that was parallel to the bar. The woman sitting there looked absolutely frustrated and miserable as people were leaning against their table while they tried to enjoy their meal. Not good.
So, should the restaurant turn people away to hang at the bar when this happens? Not sure but if Bobo was looking to create an intimate experience, the bar scene was far from it. I didn’t peak upstairs but I would hope it was much more mellow up there. I admit I did like the place at first glance when we walked in. I’d sit at the bar and have a drink if it was not that packed. There is an ambiance like an old English high end pub.
Unfortunately, the food isn’t very good and the place is packed with everyone trying to check out the latest and greatest that just got written up as the place to check out of the moment. There are pros and cons but it is up to the management to manage it.
Dinner was not worth the investment. Maybe they should just turn the whole place into a big bar.