Seattle’s BOKA has it all—terrific food and wine, exceptional service, and a spectacular location.
Since it was Oscar night, it was only fitting to give some type of award to Seattle’s BOKA Restaurant & Bar. My assignment for the evening: What part of BOKA would win the gold medal: food, wine, or service?
And, of course, there is the setting – BOKA is located in the Hotel 1000 near Seattle’s magnificent waterfront. The décor is shiny and modern, warm and beautiful and a little bit retro. As we walked into the restaurant, our eyes were immediately drawn to a striking glass sculpture depicting bamboo rising from the floor. And the floor itself, reclaimed oak from a New England barn, is polished to a warm and welcoming glow.
As we took our seats, I was already leaning toward giving the award to the wine. Sozo Balance 2009 recently won a gold medal in the Rhone Blend category at the prestigious San Francisco Wine Competition. The wine is made just for BOKA by Sozo Friends.
Wine with a Cause
Who is Sozo? Cheryl Jones is the winemaker who magically blends varietals, which mostly come from the Columbia Valley in Eastern Washington. Cheryl’s magical touch started at Washington State University, but she did not get a degree in their excellent program in viticulture and enology. Instead, she obtained a degree in food and science with the goal of a job in the dairy industry. Fortunately for wine aficionados, there were no job offers in dairy.
Instead, Cheryl went to work in the lab for Chateau Ste Michelle, then a small winery. She worked under the tutelage of Andre Tchelischeff, the famous Russian-born winemaker at Chateau Ste Michelle. Andre, the “dean of American winemakers,” was a pioneer in the wine industry and practiced his craft in California from 1938 until his death in 1994. Cheryl learned from the best and eventually became head winemaker at Chateau Ste Michelle. The rest is history and her magical blending is for us to savor.
Also blended into the wine is the company’s unique vision revealed in the name itself. Sozo is Greek for “saved,” meaning to save one who suffers from perishing, to make well, to heal and restore to health.
Along with excellent wine, the company produces artisan crafted chocolate and other gourmet food products. Every product purchased, including Balance, provides meals, clean water, medical care, and comfort to the vulnerable worldwide. When you purchase a Sozo product, you can choose from a list of charities you want to support
At this particular moment however, we were faced with some wine choices. Saving the Balance red for later in the meal, we tried the white wine, Viognier, from Stevens Winery, Columbia Valley Washington. This paired perfectly with the fresh mussels from nearby Hood Canal. Staying with fish, we were served the Ali Tuna Poke in a zesty sauce with avocado and taro chips. Our appetizers were finished with tasty flat bread sprinkled with goat cheese and mushrooms.
Next, the server brought us the Balance wine, which was a perfect blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah, with a distinctly smooth, rich taste.
While sipping, our debate started about dinner selections. It was perfect timing because Kerri Roach, the Chef de Cuisine, joined us and gave us the inside scoop. Kerri, who studied at an award winning restaurant in Seattle, has been at BOKA for more than four years. Her boss is Executive Chef Peter Birk whose resume includes more than 10 years at one of the premier seafood establishment’s at Seattle. We told Kerri we’d love to see Chef Birk in action and she said to check out some upcoming events, including the Mexican cooking class and tequila tasting. During the event, Chief Mixologist Mi Suk Ahn facilitates the tequila tasting while the chef shares his culinary secrets. Another offering is the chef’s grilling class on the patio this summer.
Perfectly Cooked Steak and Duck
All this talk about food made us hungry for dinner. Since we were having red wine with dinner and I was looking for the prefect food to pair, I wanted a tender cut of meat. Kerrie suggested the Kansas City Strip Steak. However, I was confused since BOKA generally uses local foods. I learned the name Kansas City refers to the type of cut – not the meat’s origin. Their beef is from Long Valley Ranch in Central Oregon. The farm has 1,500 cows that graze on more than 20,000 acres near the ranch town of Mitchell, Oregon (north of Bend). The herd is watched over by ranch hands on horseback. The term “happy cows” can be overused; however I suspect these cows are probably pretty happy.
When the steak arrived, I was beyond happy. “This is the best streak I have ever tasted!” I enthused. My wife went with the duck breast, locally grown in Skagit County. Talk about tender and lean and tasty; this duck was prepared perfectly.
After dinner, we apologized for not having desert– there wasn’t room for anything else. However, after we heard about their homemade ice cream and sorbet and the have-to-try new “Funfetti Ice Cream,” a concoction of cake, ice cream and sprinkles, we made room. We ordered the Sweet and Simple desert, three scoops of our choosing: Funfetti, chocolate (which was amazing) and, my personal favorite, kiwi sorbet.
After the dinner, I nominated the food for the Oscar gold medal, with Best Supporting to the wine. However, my wife launched a campaign in favor of the service.
And she had a point: There was certainly something special about the service, not least of which was the happy vibe from the staff at BOKA. Talking to the servers was like chatting with a good friend. They are skilled at non-pretentious, highly attentive service. The relaxed atmosphere and obvious investment in our experience was a real highlight.
We learned that the employees also came up with the name of the wine Balance that’s produced exclusively for BOKA. The name reflects the balance between work, family, friends, and the individual. BOKA also adds the principle of giving back since the proceeds from the wine are supplemented with a charity dinner event hosted by BOKA, which always produces a healthy check for charities.
Our final conclusion: The gold medal goes to the service, with the food and wine a close second. Together, all three created an award winning evening. – by Michael Fagin, RFT Contributor, Photos courtesy BOKA