Shame on me for taking 10 years to experience Bocado, Portuguese for “mouthful.” With a continental American bill of fare, Bocado was there before the recent avalanche of the Westside gentrification explosion. With its minimalist and industrial vibe, Bocado, owned by Brian Lewis, doesn’t just happen to have good food. The seasonal menu is all about local farmers (especially artisanal cheeses) and the showcase of rotating farm-to-table ingredients.
The sacrifice on the flipside is a limited choice of entrées. Not to worry, the small “experimental” sharing plates are front and center.
We had three small plates that were standouts, starting with Brussels sprouts, sunchoke puree, calabrese pepper, farro, parsley and butter. The sprouts were crunchy enough and the beads of farro were a nice blend, with its rich puree, which made it a bit soupy.
My favorite was the kale salad with apples, pecans, flax seed, parmesan and buttermilk dressing. Not normally a fan of buttermilk, this dressing was sharp and mild concurrently. The kale had been massaged or in some way treated to lay out a soft enough texture instead of a grind-your-teeth kale bite.
Actually, the table favorite was a brilliantly constructed and flavorful citrus, purple and orange beet salad with tzatziki, pumpkin seed, oranges and lemon. The watermelon radishes added crunch and even more color. Even for those who do not crave beets, this one worked. Next time, I would try red quinoa, field peas, avocado, cilantro, radish, cucumber and cashew lime butter. Note that lime appears on the menu in many forms.
Bocado has a popular lunch scene (even on Saturday) with a heavily sandwiched menu. They are known for their burger stack; but I would opt for the roasted cauliflower sandwich with Chinese and Thai eggplant and cilantro.
The rainbow trout entrée was a thick hunk of white “meat,” crisped on the skin on one side. It could have used less salt. The seasoned arugula helped to tone down the saltiness.
For dessert, we thought about the chocolate pot de crème (out of only four choices) to ultimately align with the warm apple cobbler with cinnamon, lemon/lime zest and caramel gelato. It was served properly with the apples warm, but working against the gelato, which stayed firm, avoiding the goopy ice cream syndrome. I would have preferred more apples and less dough, but the kitchen sent out a nice touch, a recycled old menu as a saucer.
The desserts are $7 to $8 and made on site.
In the epicenter of the requisite hip Westside scene, Bocado’s cocktail list is lively and poses questions to stimulate discussion. Where do herbsaint, monkey shoulder, and egg whites fit into names like Big Business, King George VII, Joy Sauvage, Penicillin, and Miss Jackson? We settled for a calm cava and a Coyote with tequila, Gran Classico, Salers (aperitif that would make the mouth pucker), and lime soda ($13).
A note about the well-paced service. Our server was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and headed a youthful team who seemed to watch her nods to know when to go in or stay back. None of the silliness, where strange faces bring other people’s meals at the wrong time. Our server who has been at Bocado for four years is a hospitality major earning her stripes in the real world.
Dare we use the term “gourmet à la local?” Bon Appetit.
Bocado had a $3 parking fee and is located at 887 Howell Mill Road, also accessible from the Northside Drive parallel street if you don’t mind the strip club route. There is late night Friday service until 2 a.m., but the restaurant is closed Sundays.