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A Steak for the Ages

Some meals stay with you long after the bill has arrived, and only a handful of them will leave an indelible impression. They usually aren't the ones in the 4-star restaurants with the paycheck price tag. More often a memorable meal comes down to the food you yearned for at that point in time and how the dish satisfied an "inner craving".

We all have our own favorites -- I can still remember the comforting feeling of a roast beef dinner with mashed potatoes in a pool of gravy after an afternoon of pond hockey back in New England, and the tasty crunch of fried clams with tartar sauce at a seaside shack on a familiar drive many summers ago. Or the first time I had Veal Picatta with something called "lemon caper butter sauce" and discovering there was more to Italian than spaghetti & meatballs with "gravy".

Now you may say "you were only a kid and didn't know any better." I say baloney.
You can go a long time between these kinds of meals, and Boboquivari's (aka Bobo's) bone-in filet ($36) now joins those ranks and tops my personal short list of great steaks I've enjoyed over many years of beef consumption. Rather surprisingly, this fine piece of meat is served in the stylish yet unpretentious setting of a smaller boutique style steakhouse -- on Lombard Street of all places.

The restaurant's décor matches the theme of its namesake; Boboquivari is a Venetian court jester of comedy & entertainment. A glassy green lit bar invites you into the playfully elegant restaurant, described as "Cirque de Soleil meets Old World Venice" -- a tapestry of carnival marionettes and plush booths with black and deep red stripes throughout. This novel combo is a cool blend of style and colors, and it whets the appetite for the treats to come.

Whatever the science of grain vs. grass fed, dry-aged vs. wet-aged, Bobo's has found the formula to fabulous steak (Grazie to Chef Andrea Froncillo). Ours arrived with a beautiful, dark brown-crusted "bark" that belied the tender, medium rare beef within. The rap on filet mignon is that because of the leaner cut, it's somewhat less juicy and flavorful than the macho, well-marbled ribeye or Delmonico. Bobo's bone-in dispels this notion, as it has all the flavor of those cuts without any of the gristle that you may expect. Tender like you dream about, juicy like you wish it to be -- the filet delivers on both counts in a large way. This is how flavorful a steak can be when placed in the right cook's hands.

Another featured offering on Bobo's menu is the decadent Dungeness Crab. The crab (at least 2 lbs. when caught) is roasted with garlic and butter to the perfect degree of sweet tenderness. It comes as a cocktail starter with a beurre blanc coulis ($13), and in half-order ($19), whole crab ($35), three pounds ($49), and crab feast ($100) portions. Also, to satisfy your land and sea hankering, the surf & turf is available (1/2 crab and petit filet) for $35. Prices are hefty, but the portions are more than adequate. If you treat the meal as a special occasion and rationalize a bit, you'll get over the hard hit to the plastic.

Other delectable notables on the menu are the pancetta-wrapped scallops in a wasabi pesto aioli ($9); the sides of baked yam with brown sugar butter, and spinach sautéed with toasted garlic chips and olive oil (both $6). Full-flavored and skillfully balanced, these dishes hold their own against the rock star appeal of the main offerings.

What didn't standout and wow us at Bobo's were the skillet roasted mussels ($12) -- a tad overcooked and dry; the lobster bisque soup ($8), with too much curry spice; and the Maui onion rings ($6), a little greasy and bready for our liking. These basic menu items were a disappointment considering the relative ease of their straightforward preparation.

So is there any room for dessert after this hearty fare? If you kick back and sip your luscious red wine (we tried the Cabernet VJB Dante Sonoma County 2000 for $39, and Kenwood "Jack London" Sonoma Valley 2000 for $44), you may have just enough room to share the sorbet trio ($7) and the dunce cap cones filled with dark chocolate mousse and an ancho pepper chocolate sauce ($8). Both desserts are decent but not as great as Mom's exquisite chocolate rum torte -- angel food cake soaked in Meyer's rum and frozen with a marble of chocolate ooze and whipped dreams of cream; now you have reached manna nirvana!

Back to the main meaty attraction: if there's a better steak (my Uncle Frank's BBQ many seasons ago), I have to think it is more out of loyalty to my dearly departed relative and less to do with how this most excellent dish tasted. Boboquivari's bone-in filet joins the pantheon of top grade A meals. Just wish Uncle Frank could have joined us…

Written in collaboration with Laurel Timms

Steaks and Seafood