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A Bohemian Rhapsody - BoHo

Wednesday, December 03, 2014 tgoandco

A new place in Chicago, less than a year old, is BoHo or Bohemian House. It had me intrigued. The name conjures ups visions from the movie Moulin Rouge, the musical Rent or the opera La Boheme which the previous two so liberally borrowed. Like most folks, I think of gypsies and starving artists which is not a totally misplaced thought. It is somehow mixed with French culture – which is where the Bohemian lifestyle made the crossover into the popular French culture with novels by Victor Hugo and Henri Murger. Bohemia was an area in what is now the Czech Republic. It was nestled amongst the Germany, Austria, Hungry and Poland with its capitol in Prague. Much of what we think of as Bohemian is based on the craftsman and artists who immigrated to other countries looking to escape political suppression during the part of the 19th and 20th century from the country of Bohemia. Nomadic by nature, the Bohemians were/are considered Romani people who are an Indian ethnicity in origin. They looked much like Egyptians with dark complexion – thus Gypsie became the slang term for them in the 1800’s. Nomadic by nature, they travel and live an alternative lifestyle when compared to western cultures. They were artists, poets and free spirits that in modern day are reflective in the hippies of the 60s. Jack Kerouac would be someone who one would consider as having the free spirited values and alternative lifestyle. All that said, your charge as a chef is to express all that artistic expression in a plate of food.
    That is what BoHo is all about. Located at 11 West Illinois, it sits convenient to lots of River North hot spots. Look for the iron work framing the windows as the signage indicating its name is a little easy to miss.

A nod to the surroundings.

The interior is complex and artistic – it reflects the food. This is an artfully designed and well thought out interior. It is very relaxing and rugged. When one first walks in, it is very unassuming and casual. Upon second glance, you really start to soak in how much hand-labor when into each table and fixture. There are some gorgeous turquoise leather chesterfield sofas in the front that make lounging with cocktails just a decadent experience. The light fixtures have a wink at industrialism but are artfully handcrafted.  You will want to take them home. So much of the restaurant feels like a creative art explosion, one wants to linger longer at the table or bring the whole table and chairs home with you. FYI -- the wallpaper in the bathroom (which usually doesn’t catch my eye) stopped me in my tracks. I want that at home. There is some wonderful flavors coming out of the kitchen…  but as you know, it always starts with a cocktail.

Cocktails anyone?

Always one to look at the cocktail list first, pleases don’t sling me a bad drink.  They don’t.  In fact, that should be tip off of how good the food is. Bartending is like cooking for those that don’t like chewing. So if you fall into that category, they got you covered. They make a fun filled Whisky in Cider. This frothy mix comes in a brandy glass and has a head like beer. It is light and flavorful but will pack a punch to take the edge off. Their Infused Fashion (a take off on an Old-Fashioned) is also lovely but a bit more lethal with a fig soaked in bourbon as the garnish. Bohemian Bee also packs a sting and is a bit more dry. The Prague Rose will leave you very romantic and rosy cheeked. There is such a variety on the drink menu that it will be hard to narrow down the selection. Go for broke and enjoy. Then move on to the solid dinner.

The real dinner.

You might think this is going to be similar to heavy German or Polish food with has a large amount of red vinegar. This is not heavy. It is actually rather light but savory. Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos has created a lovely menu that has notes of German, Austrian and the Czech foods. It is not heavily starchy so it won’t sit with you all night. The menu on the starters is quite interesting with a variety of price options. Starters are $6 to $16. Not a lover of bone marrow, I opted out of the bone marrow and steak tartare combo. Please note: the server was great at point pointing out things that people would like based on their flavor pallet.  She was very good at sizing up likes/dislikes or describing the dishing so people would know what flavor to expect. This later point was key as some of the flavors are unusual. The deviled eggs with whitefish was an example of steering one into a right direction. They were fresh, moist but with a crunch of shallots on the top. The first thing to try though is the Beef Pierogi. This is their top selling appetizer. It is so amazingly and you will really want to lick the plate. It comes with four Pierogi and this should come in an entrée portion but alas it does not. It is so wonderfully rich and flavorful. The beef has a rich sauce accented with sour cream. The vinegar in the pickled onions gives the dish a savory flavor that will leave your head spinning. 

The menus is not large on the vegetarian options – you have one option. It is a Braised Mushroom and Barley mix. Similar to a pasta dish, this was hearty and more dense in flavor than one would expect from a vegetarian plate. Most of the dishes hit a well on the savory spot on the tongue. They may have dill, caramelized onions, prunes and carrots somehow mixed in. The flavor sensations that comes from this food is a result of lots of labor. None of the dishes are exactly easy to make. Most are the result of some multi-step process. Some ingredients gets pickled, smoked or caramelized to give off flavors that send the palette into orbit.  The Duck is a great example. It comes with brandied prunes, smoked hazelnuts, apples and turnips. There is a sweetness that balances out the savory. It is not greasy as it is rich without being heavy. It is not something one would make at home as it is very time consuming to make as each ingredient as something extraordinary done to it prior to being added. These extra steps make each dish more unusual and something to special to savor.

Generally speaking each dish is pretty spectacular. The Spatzle was the only favor offering that was less than expected… and at the same time not. The folks who attended this tasting knew and love smoked beef tongue. I am not a fan thus I not the market base for this. This one was more/less like corned beef so the flavor was more of an alternative flavor. For an American taste pallet, it was OK as I understood what taste would be coming at me. For those who really loves and enjoys beef tongue, it was a bit of a disappointment as it was not what were expected. They didn’t want the corned beef or pastrami entrée. You be the judge. I’ll stick with the Duck.

Dessert – which one?

There is not a huge selection here. There are three. The fact that they were only three made me try them all. There is a choice of Coffee Gelato with Donut holes, Cheese Kolacky with Plum Ice Cream or Dark Chocolate Custard with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Those who have gotten Kolacky in a bakery may think this is a hoe-hum offering – so wrong. These were the best Kolacky ever. They blow anything you’ve probably ever had out of the water… unless of course, your grandmother knew how to make them well and lavished them on you fresh from the oven. Warm and moist, they disappeared in a NY nanosecond. The cheese is similar to custard and blends well with the plum ice cream. The Donuts were also warm and complimented the gelato well. There were 4 holes in case you were wondering. These also were like something a grandmother who was amazing at baking would do. There is an overwhelming note of warm and fuzzy in the desserts. One will miss their Babcia even if one has never had one that could bake half as well. The dark chocolate custard was a bit of a surprise. It was light. Not whipped into a frothy mousse but not heavy, gloppy or dense like a cheesecake. A lot of care was taken to make sure you didn’t feel bogged down.

    This is a wonderful restaurant. Prices are not exorbitant for downtown but may seem excessive for the size of the entrees. As I mentioned, you will find this food is not heavy or excessively dense. The favors are amazing and you will want more… and you will want more. I wish the menu had sides listed as a side of mashed with the duck would have made my day. Even some rice or a bread basket would have helped. I had no problem with price. I do have a problem with an entrée feeling like a small plate when it is a large one… thus the desire for a potato.  This has the potential of being heavy so perhaps the sizes of portions were reduced to offset the richness.

The food truly makes you want to lick the plate -- I kid you not. 
You will love it. The sauce on the duck is like a gravy and is to die for. One will want to sop it up with something but there isn’t anything.  The same affects the drinks. The infused fashion is heavenly – but the fig takes up a large amount of space in such a tiny glass. That aside, this is a wonderfully romantic spot. It has large tables and enormous booths so large groups will feel very welcome.  One will not feel crowded or crushed in the space. It is also nice to have a conversation in. It is a place not to be missed. For reservations: call 312-955-0439 or go to

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