Parker House Rolls, Soft Butter, Dill
Crisp Corn & Salt Cod Fritters, Malt Vinegar Aioli
Ricotta Dumplings, Peas, Green Garlic, Mint, Parmesan
Squid Ink alla Chitarra, Calamari, Prawns, Tomato
Creamy Polenta, Shiitake Mushrooms, Parmesan
Buckwheat Carrot Cake, Cream Cheese Mousse, Pineapple, Blood Orange
Butterscotch Pudding, Pecan Praline, White Coffee-Kahlua Ice Cream, Caramelized Grains
Shut out on The Lobby due to Chicago traffic and bad weather in late 2013 it was not until September 2014 that Lee Wolen’s Cuisine was tasted at BOKA, news that he’d since launched an “All-American Supper Club” called Somerset immediately placing it atop the bucket list for a return in July and the fact that the two-story space on North State Street was one of the few open for dinner on Independence Day further sweetening the deal.
Located inside The Viceroy Hotel and thus serving three meals daily, an outdoor patio looking out on the Near North Side proving popular despite heat and humidity, it was instead opting for an inside seat near the downstairs window that a hip male server presented the menu and Ice Water, a declination of Cocktails accepted without question and followed by some dining suggestions.
Less than 25% full at 5:00pm on a Holiday, the well-appointed upstairs completely empty but worth visiting to explore the art or simply wash up, it was shortly after returning to the two-top that warm Rolls were presented alongside creamy Butter, the addition of Dill unanticipated but pleasant while the Bread’s wispy texture was every bit as good as the original in Boston.
Prone to seasonal change but already developing some signatures, Wolen’s well-known Chicken for two ordered by groups on both sides, it was in favor of variety that dinner began with what can best be described as Brandade Hush Puppies alongside vibrant Aioli, each sweet yet briny bite as good as the last though a plate of Gnudi served simultaneously still managed to steal the spotlight thanks to quality Produce and impeccable seasoning that bridged late Spring and early Summer.
Moving next to more housemade Pasta plus a dish designated as a Side, the Cornmeal thick with Cheese and Cream as good as Scott Conant’s famous version but perhaps too rich for just one, it was in alternating bites that this was enjoyed alongside al dente Ribbons brightened by the flavors of Cioppino, a half-portion perfect for solos who wish to save room for Dessert which is most certainly advisable.
Turning things over at this point to Meg Galus, the head Pastry Chef at BOKA pulling triple duty these days as she also heads up sweets at Swift & Sons, it was making difficult decisions amongst six choices which vary slightly from Lunch to Dinner that two were ordered, a deconstructed Buckwheat Carrot Cake managing its high-wire act of Citrus and Spice nicely while Butterscotch Pudding doubled down on texture with Pecan Praline and crunchy grains while tempering sweetness by way of slightly bitter Ice Cream.