I went to the reopening party for La Boheme last evening. The West Hollywood restaurant has been closed since July for a remodel and a change of menu. The new Pan-Asian menu was introduced to invited guests last evening in the form of tray-served hors d’œuvres. I asked if all the hors d’œuvres served last evening would be on the menu and was told many would be served regularly. Our party of four was completely underwhelmed with the food. The first hors d’œuvre we were served was a minced-meat filled wonton that was utterly tasteless. We asked the server if it was pork or chicken and he didn't know. After eating the wonton, neither did we. That was followed by a seared piece of 55-day aged meat on toast with a dab of cream sauce. This hors d’œuvre was the absolute winner of the evening's offerings and we were happy to see that selection come out of the kitchen twice. Forgettable sushi was next, dull and lackluster with hardened rice. I asked the server if sushi was going to be on the menu at the new Cafe La Boheme and he said it would be served at the bar. I'm guessing sushi may be one of the foods the restaurant gets right, as they have experience with it from their La Cienega-eatery, Gonpachi.
The biggest food disappointments also included the dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon. Even bacon couldn't save this nuclear morsel. Far too much blue cheese overwhelmed this little bite. More than one person at our table took one nibble and left the rest in a napkin. Just awful. Crabcakes were next. In fairness, they were cooked to a golden perfection. But the crab mixture was completely dry and tasteless. Nobody in our group finished theirs and we saw other guests depositing half-eaten crab cakes on any available space. The kitchen needs to get this right or drop it from the menu.
Firecracker shrimp followed. No culinary explosion, just a bite of mealy shrimp in innocuous coating. Then came the oysters in lime juice, served in shooter glasses. The two people in our party who had this, loved it. The big sin was the steak tartare. The texture had all the earmarkings of a food processor. Unforgivable. Even if chef Christine Banta was under a time constraint with the number of party guests, this was an unfortunate decision.
Some would say, food has always been La Boheme's weak spot. The decor may have changed slightly, but the weak spot is even more precarious than ever.
One final observation, service has also been a week spot for La Boheme. We may have discovered why last evening and leave the restaurant with a suggestion. Get your thug-like GM to lay off the servers and they will probably have less reason to stalk the restaurant floor with the look of taunted junkyard dogs on their faces. La Boheme's GM needs to dial down the anger directed at staff and customers for this revamped West Hollywood spot to succeed.
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