Excerpts from the Rio-to-Galapagos diaries of Charles Darwin decorate Boca Kitchen Bar, a natural selection in summer.
The new restaurant opens at a waterside site that has seen dining rooms of different species over the years, Water's Edge and Steamboat Landing among them. What has bound and often defined them is the view. The Jude Thaddeus Marina offers a pretty one that diners at many of the Boca tables will enjoy. Boca also has outdoor seating.
Inside, under the filament lighting, things turn chaotic in a hurry. Service: erratic. And there are moments when you may think it's simply extinct. You may have to wait a while to taste the weakest cocktails of the season.
But kitchen precedes bar at Boca. And there are some light, pleasing starters to put you in a sunny mood. The raw bar includes East and West Coast oysters. Top neck clams are staples. The four-member shrimp cocktail is fine and recommended. If you want to go all-out, try the Boca "canoe," which holds crab meat, the day's ceviche, a quartet of shrimp, six top necks and a dozen oysters.
Boca brings together two cuisines. There's the coastal stuff and a series of satisfactory to very good Mexican dishes. Dip in with guacamole, salsa and chips. Scoop the jalapeno-spurred queso fundido with tortillas. The Baja fish tacos, made with cod and sparked by pico de gallo, have the right taste. But they could be crispier. Skip the bland vegetarian enchiladas and consider the mole poblano version with chicken instead.
The house's Wagyu beef sliders are juicy and well-seasoned, with truffle-oil aioli, aged Cheddar, and house-made pickles. The official Boca lobster roll, meaty and ample, looks a bit like a stuffed spud bridging a basket of potato chips. It's a reliable choice. Grilled octopus gets a boost from piquillo peppers and capers.
But the $55 Boca seafood stew, which sports shellfish and finfish, shows up overdone and delivers none of the flavor you'd expect from the advertised coconut-chile broth. Grilled striped bass also is overcooked.
Berkshire pork chop similarly is on the dry side, and materializing minus the expected Japanese sweet potatoes. Filet mignon, tender and rare as ordered, benefits from a restrained chimichurri sauce. The 24-ounce porterhouse steak, which weighs in at $58, needs more attention, reaching you closer to well-done than medium-rare.
Flan, churros, cheesecake, and creme brulee vie at the finale, with the caramel custard providing a lesson in survival of the fittest.