“Seacuterie” is one of those portmanteaus that will either strike you as hopelessly clumsy or a springboard to a plate full of things you’ve never tried before. (It can be both, but it’s probably going to elicit a stronger reaction.) At Cafe Boho in the Marina, you ought to trust that it wouldn’t be on the menu absent a good reason, and let yourself be taken in by the presence of tuna pastrami, a salmon napoleon — it looks a little like some cream-cheese-frosted bite from a 1960s bridge club, but bear with it — and a good old salmon rillette, plus a “sturgeon boudin blanc.”
Have I lost you?
Give in. Cafe Boho matches its inventiveness against its technical execution, and the final result is most winning. The name is trite and there are a couple of rough edges that could be sanded down, but this place should be on your radar, pinging like a nuclear-armed sub.
The world has duck confit enough, so go spelunking in and around that seacuterie board ($32), beautifully assembled and studded with roe and pickled vegetables among the hunks of sourdough, as well as some mustard you’ll probably never touch. And while happy hour menus are riddled with miniature pizzas and various bar snacks in that idiom, it’s nice to see flatbread ($14) buried under so much frisee and shavings of watermelon radish that you aren’t even sure if there’s goat cheese under there at all. A smoked peach salad ($14) suffered from blobs of blue-gray pesto-adjacent sauce that looked unfortunately like mold, but the stone fruits in their nest of greens and dotted with macadamias don’t even need the ellipsoids of ricotta at either end of the platter.
Unlike penne, the utilitarian workhorse of the pasta world that’s always functioning solely as a delivery mechanism for a sauce, fat ribbons of pappardelle can be almost too luscious, prone to getting tangled up in whatever they’re meant to be dressed with. Full of black garlic and ricotta, Boho’s pappardelle is high summer dropping into autumn, an array of squash and wax beans dusted with fennel pollen, light yet eggy-rich ($21). Tender octopus ($32) manages to take a back seat to several preparations of corn, grilled kernels and a sweet reduction being the two that face front. A load-bearing wall of grapefruit and basil, like a blending grape that provides structure to a wine, gave that dish some right angles.
Among these summery delights, you’ll find a litany of standard items: Liberty duck breast, a Niman Ranch burger, tuna tartare. Choose judiciously among them and stay adventurous — or, in the case of brunch, stay opulent. Rather than steaming them in garlic and white wine, Boho’s mussels come in a rouille thickened with crème fraîche so it’s almost like a smoked cheddar broth ($19). And avocado toast’s arms race is on, this Aussie cliche having become what outrageous Bloody Mary garnishes were like in 2011: an excuse to go totally nuts. Lime and salt render this avocado toast ($14) nearly into guacamole, and a glorious mess of pickles and greens is topped with a poached egg.
One commonality here is bread: It’s the substrate to almost everything Cafe Boho does. It shows up again in the lobster and burrata ($24), which is hard to classify. It’s arguably a bit much for brunch, but also a little extra for dinner. No matter, as the burrata can’t smother the slices of green tomato — and if the lobster is a little gray rather than red-orange-pink, it’s still bathing in a super-acidic sauce with pistachio for crunch. Boldness and determination carry the day.
For such a wine-filled atmosphere, selections by the glass are few and lacking much personality, clearly chosen to amplify the kitchen’s labors and not stand on their own; a Château Lassègue Bordeaux was nothing if not tight. Among the cocktails, the rosewater-tinged Rosary ($10), made with Cocchi Americano and Dolin dry vermouth, felt like a church wedding. If the chocolate-walnut notes in the Little Boy ($10) were a bit out of step with the season, it’s still lovely on the merits. It’s a low-ABV menu, but order enough of those and you’ll be a Fat Man. (I assume nuclear war is the context; it’s not hard to think of something a little more “bohemian,” I guess, but that’s also getting creepy.) And a big old bottomless cup of coffee with brunch is only two dollars.
I don’t especially want to poo-poo the Marina, or even meta-poo-poo it by leveraging other people’s well-trod objections to the neighborhood’s vibe into another give-it-a-chance entreaty. Cafe Boho’s interior, full of glassed-in wine racks, doesn’t exactly scream “neighborhood restaurant” — it’s little more than a signifier of money, really — and the plates are maddeningly small, barely larger than saucers. The interior is unnecessarily loud, so full of hard surfaces that one fussy toddler can all but bring brunch service to a halt. But the food is Left Bank to the core.
Cafe Boho, 3321 Steiner St., 415-374-7518 or cafebohosf.com