Mon, 6pm-1pm; Tue-Thu, 6pm-11pm; Fri, 6pm-midnight; Sat, noon-3pm and 6pm-midnight; Sun, noon-4pm and 6pm-10pm
1 at Christopher St.-Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, V at W. 4th St.-Washington Sq.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
The basement entrance of the townhouse restaurant is conspicuously unmarked. To get to the dining room, you must duck into a candlelit lounge area and climb up a rickety flight of stairs. The dining-room tables are set with guttering candles, too, and the room is fitted with tastefully rummaged knickknacks (glass-bead chandeliers, an hourglass, carefully arranged old-master knockoffs on the walls), along with a bookshelf casually stocked, like a summer rental in the Hamptons, with random volumes by Escoffier and Alan Dershowitz.
This look has been a hit from the beginning (for the record, Mrs. Platt is a fan), but thus far, the food at Bobo has been a disaster. The kitchen is now on its third chef, Patrick Connolly, who comes from Boston, where he won a James Beard award this spring for his work at a posh restaurant called Radius. At Bobo, however, he’s operating under a different set of constraints. The food at fashionable downtown joints isn’t designed to win awards; it’s designed to facilitate the party while containing costs. Which may be why my ahi-tuna appetizer was barely large enough to feed a flea. The $16 seared-quail starter was similarly minimalist and also slightly overcooked, and the thick potato-leek soup could have used a touch of vichyssoise lightness. My braised-pork-belly appetizer was weirdly delicious, however (it’s served with tiny clams in a lemongrass broth), and so was the cool little wheel of fresh Maine crab, which the chef spreads with cashew butter and sprinkles with frizzled capers.
You get the sense from some of these first courses that Connolly is a chef bursting with inventive notions. But when the entrées roll around, that ingenuity only occasionally breaks through. Sea trout is served with Thai long beans on the side and a refined soft-cooked egg topped with caviar. Connolly’s housemade potato gnocchi are velvet-smooth (they’re folded with freshly cooked tomatoes and Parmesan), and his version of country chicken consists of a single crackly-skinned, well-cooked breast sliced over sautéed artichokes and matsutake mushrooms. The “slow roasted” rib eye is just as well executed, although its matchbox size caused my beefeating friends to recoil. Ditto the tiny bits of monkfish and the single pork chop, which is served over a sweet mass of figs and caramelized fennel and was overcooked both times I ordered it.
Connolly has put in a downstairs bar menu (which is scrawled, ridiculously, on old LPs), and the two things I sampled on it, lamb ribs and a tasty-sounding Vietnamese pork sandwich, were badly cooked (the lamb was blubbery, the sandwich made with a stale baguette). If you have a choice, eat upstairs, where there is a second, more elegant, pocket-size bar and a stylish alfresco area, which is open during temperate weather. The small, semi-artful desserts served there include a demitasse of chocolate pudding, a citrus cheesecake that tastes curiously like an elegant, New Age version of crème brûlée, and an icy granita, dressed with currants and a hint of sugary orange peel. The plum-blackberry crisp is okay as premade fruit crisps go, and so is the chocolate cake with salted toffee, which is presented on a blue-and-white china plate. Is this enough to satisfy the serious eater? Probably not. But if you go to Bobo for the party, you won’t be disappointed. Despite the lofty culinary aspirations, this frenetically voguish restaurant remains true to its roots. It’s a triumph of style over substance.Note
The distilled tap water at Bobo comes with an optional $1 surcharge. Proceeds go to a charity that builds wells in Ethiopia.Ideal Meal
Pork belly, chicken breast or rib eye, citrus cheesecake.