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Restaurants & Bars 13

Boa Santa Monica Review (long)

Gotham | Nov 8, 2005 04:13 PM

Went to Boa in Santa Monica the other night, and I can only say we were very disappointed from start to finish.

Boa is one of these new steakhouses that try and get away from the stuffy, clubby atmosphere of the Arnie Morton’s / Ruth Chris type places, and they present a cooler, hip atmosphere. “New” however doesn’t always mean “better.” I think “bizarre” might be a better way to describe how things went for us.

The room is colorful and well decorated, so we went in with high expectations. As the first ones in the restaurant, the four of us were then stunned to be shunted into an annex off the bar area which looked pretty bleak. We objected and they did move us back to the main room, but when we asked to sit at a booth, the hostess told us they were saving those for parties of 6 or more.

Can’t argue with that. Except over the course of the evening, a number of booths filled with parties of four, and a number of booths never filled at all. Well okay, maybe there were some no-shows. We can live with a table in the rear.

I started with a glass of pinot, but the wine arrived with a sour taste to it, as if it had been opened…. maybe last week? I sent it back, and the waiter returned with a different decanter, along with a compliment from the bartender. He admitted to trying to “substitute” a Chilean wine for the Oregon vintage we ordered.

Substitute? Did I miss something in the ever-changing frontier of restaurant management? I guess I admire the waiter for his honesty, but sheesh. When you order a particular type of wine at a high end place, the least they can do is tell you that they’re out of it and recommend something else! I know restaurants, even great ones, do not make a point of opening a fresh bottle each time a by-the-glass customer orders something, but the wine they brought out was not only different from what I ordered, but had turned bad.

Anyway, the replacement wine was good and we settled in to ordering dinner. The waiter started out by telling us there was only one porterhouse left, and that they were completely out of bone-in filet mignons. They also had only five regular filets.

Now this is something I’ve never come across before – a steakhouse that runs out of steaks! Okay, I’m still trying to be a good sport here, so we order something else, and try to ignore having to listen to Boa’s inventory issues.

The first course. The iceberg lettuce wedge with bleu cheese was exceptionally tasty, and while I started out enjoying the goat cheese beinget, I eventually discovered the center was ICE COLD. I had finished most of it and didn’t want to come off as a constant pest so I didn’t bother to send it back. Try to make the best of things, I told myself, something I had to keep silently repeating all night.

My wife and I both order rib eyes, and we are served two steaks that were markedly different in size and shape. Hers is twice as thick – but also totally coated in black pepper, totally inedible from her standpoint, and made worse by the fact she ordered it without any rubs or sauces. It then took 10 minutes for them to get it right, instead of a new steak they simply wiped the pepper off, which meant some of it was still lingering on the meat.

No explanation as to why one steak was much bigger than the other (admittedly, if my steak had been bigger I’d probably be less annoyed).

So finally she has an edible steak. Mine however, is tough as a shoe, with deep pockets of pure fat spaced in-between. This was something that’s way below even grocery store standards, the lowest of the low IMO. The idea that an expensive steakhouse could have the nerve to serve such a poor cut of beef annoys me to no end. Paying over $30 for the privilege of eating a poor cut of meat at Boa is inexcusable. I suppose I could have sent it back, but after already sending back one steak and the wine, I figure if it’s at least semi-edible, I’d chalk it up to experience, albeit a bad one.

{Just as an aside – all things considered -- what would you have done?}

Now our friends ordered other steaks and they were fine with it, the sides were good if not great -- you can’t mess up asparagus and fried potatoes too badly!

The dessert menu was a little bizarre -- why a high end restaurant serves cotton candy as a dessert isn’t campy, just weird. I’ve heard about another dinner house that started doing this too, and I’m sorry I just don’t get it. If they are trying to say they are different from Arnie Morton’s, they have already done so – big time!

But then again, maybe poor service, inadequate preparation, and inconsistent quality is part of the new dining experience.

Not once did Boa’s manager stop by our table -- but he did stop by the table next to ours three times, so I guess some people get the royal treatment at hip new places and others do not. Maybe the folks next to us were regulars, but a word with the manager would have helped us to not go away so disgusted with the place. The only thing I can imagine, is that he simply didn’t care.

We had read mixed reviews for Boa before arriving, so I can’t say we were not forewarned about the place. Like anything else, sometimes you have a good experience while everyone around you suffers, and vice versa. I guess this was just our turn to have a bad meal.

The tab came to almost $400 for four people, which ordinarily should ensure you have a good meal. In LA circa 2005 however, fine dining establishments do not always deliver on the promise. At Boa, they certainly didn’t.

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