By Ethan Wolff
I don’t have the personality that notices ice cubes. At home, once the freezer burn and the stray sesame seeds have been scraped off, that bourbon rocks is good to go. Not so with bobo owner Carlos Suarez. When I arrive he’s at the bar, nodding toward the perfect squares in a cocktail glass. The cubes are finally the way he wants them. This is a place where the details matter.
A dinner-party feel is the goal. It starts with the entry, down candlelit steps. You ring the doorbell. You’re buzzed in through a foyer, as if you were entering a friend’s brownstone. Already you feel like you’re in on some secret. The low ceiling of the barroom, with its original century-old beams, makes for an intimate vibe.
Up more candlelit stairs is the main dining room, adorned with antique mantels, family photos from Cuba, and twin crystal chandeliers hand-strung by Carlos. Long white tapers shed that flattering glow that makes everyone look good. Not that the crowd isn’t attractive to start with. The gunmetal-shaded walls seem New England to me, in the way colonial can blur with Euro. The space conceals small surprises, like two seats at a window overlooking the kitchen, or the bonus bar on the cusp of the rustic 30-person garden. Silhouettes on the drink coasters reappear on an upstairs wall, the profiles democratically representing insiders from the owner to the plumber to the chef.
That chef is Nicolas Cantrel, originally of Normandy, whose rï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½sumï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ reflects stints with Ducasse and Daniel. His dishes are smooth and savory and earthy, with some of grandma’s wisdom to back up the dinner-party effect. Bacon, onion, and crï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½me fraï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½che top the tarte flambï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½e, which is a seared slab of obscenely tender bread. Super-smooth cognac and cream flows out of an antique silver pourer onto a dry bed of chestnuts and mushrooms in a signature soup. Suckling pig fricassee sounds intimidating, but is actually tender slices of browned pork accompanied by white beans, tomato, and tarragon mustard. Chicken grand-mï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½re is plated in a shape like the ace of spades, topped by a hearty red wine sauce with mushrooms and country bacon. On the side, a red Le Creuset pot holds a fluffy cloudlet of mashed potatoes.
Bobo’s crowd is that rarity in New York, a demographic that actually synchs with its target, mostly 20- and 30-somethings with genuine Bohemian Bourgeois flair. There’s a frisky feel. While I’m up, someone scrawls “I WANT SEX NOW“ in my notebook. Presumably not my waiter, who is all continental suavity.
Since this is 2007, there’s also a green angle. The wine list highlights the organic and the bio-dynamic. An in-house purification system provides both the sparkling and the still, poured out of recycled-glass carafes. But given all the thought that went into the ice cubes, you could have guessed the water wasn’t going to be just a toss off.
QUICK BITES Cuisine: Haute homey French Vibe: Euro dinner party, with speakeasy undertones Occasion: Classy candlelit night when you’re out to impress Damage: $115 for a three-course meal for two with one drink each, including tax and tip Reservations: Recommended Not to Be Missed: Chestnut soup, $9 181 W. 10th St. (Seventh Ave. So.) bobonyc.com 212-488-2626 West Village