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Dec 20, 2009 09:54 AM

Caffe Boa / Tempe

So we hadn't had a chance to get over to Boa since Chef Curry joined so were anxious to meet up with some friends for a holiday season dinner. First the cocktails. The list of herbal and fresh fruit drinks is truly inventive, reminiscent of the menu at Digestif. I went for the Bitter Sweet Drop which is a refreshing blend of muddled red grapefruit, red grapefruit infused vodka and a Campari sinker. This went down way too fast.

With cocktails our server brought out some baguette and focaccia to go with a trio of hummus, pesto, and QCOO. All quite good.

Chef came out to talk us through some of his current favorites on the menu. We started with a few apps shared between the five of us.
The Washington Mussels came in a broth of briny, curried, coconut milk goodness. The mussels were quite small, maybe dime-sized, but each one was sweet as can be and packed a flavorful punch. The flatbread was perfect for sopping up all of the broth.

Roasted Veal Marrow Bones w/some well-salted bittergreens and toast points was truly comforting. The roasted marrow was creamy and lucious with the spicy, salty greens just cutting through the fat. Yum.

The app special was a Meditteranean spiced Octopus salad that was so cleansing, so tender, and very refreshing.

With apps, I had a glass of 2007 Dingać Plavac Mali (Pelješac) which was fairly fruit forward with brambly dark plum flavors and a hint of dried leaves and earth, a wonderful streak of minerality and dusty tannic structure.

My main was the line caught fish special, Red Snapper on a bed of sea beans and sunchokes. The fish skin was wonderfully crispy with tender flesh, the sea beans like a briny pea tendril, and the sunchokes gave a wonderful earthy richness to the dish. Chef later came back out and explained that there was no added salt to this dish, just the saline quality of the fish and sea beans. Lovely.

I also tried the Autumn Maccaroncello with a butternut squash/honey sauce and duck confit. Fresh, nicely cooked tube pasta with a most decadently creamy sauce. The sweetness of the squash was good foil to the richness of the confit with a bit of Slovenian pumpkin oil pulling it all together.

With dinner we shared a pitcher of red Sangria. Lots of fruit, Fanta, tequilla and a bottle of tempranillo (opened and poured into the mix tableside) make for a really easy to drink fruity complex Sangria.

Dessert was a chef-selection of cheeses w/some green apple, raspberry, blackberry, drizzled balsamic, and apricot chutney. I didn't get the names of all the cheeses but we had a very stinky lingering Spanish cabral, a creamy bloomy mixed milk cheese from Asti, a very subtly farmy milky cows milk cheese and Cyprus Grove Lambchop. Great way to end the meal as we finished off the last bits of sangria.

Service was spot on all night too. We'll be back for sure.

Caffe Boa
398 S. Mill Avenue, Tempe, AZ 85281

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  1. Great review. Thanks for the detail. I've been a fan of Boa since its humble beginnings down the street in the mid-'90s. I was initially concerned when I saw favorites like my beloved rigatoni puttanesca disappear from the menu, but Chef Payton has more than made up for their absence with his creations.

    1. We stopped by one recent Friday for happy hour, but did not manage to find a spot in the bar. They do not offer any bar specials on the patio, and they never have. There were two occupied dining tables, and the rest of the place was empty.

      It is their place and their consistent policy, but if they had accommodated our party -- or if they would specify the bar half of the patio could serve happy hour -- I think they'd do a lot more business. I have been a longtime fan of the Wisnewskis and a fan of Payton's work at Digestif -- you can bet we would have run a hefty bill above and beyond the happy hour offerings. I had been talking up Payton's charcuterie talents to the people who were mostly stunned and disappointed to hear their favorite pastas were probably off the menu. The hostesses invited us to wait to see if bar space opened up, but we've tried that before with no success.

      It is still the best place on Mill, so it's not like I'm not going to stop recommending the place, but there's a big part of me that misses the old digs next to Long Wongs and the old menu. If I could count it among my stable of solid noshing/happy hour joints, I would go a lot more often.

      1 Reply
      1. re: themis

        As you mention, strictly limiting happy hour pricing to the bar only has always been Boa's policy. Nothing has changed in that respect. As for the "hefty bill above and beyond the happy hour offerings," I suspect you are part of an enlightened minority in that regard. My guess is that far more people just want to eat the discounted happy hour food and never pay full price, even though Boa's prices appear to have come down slightly since Chef Payton came on board. The people who were never willing to spend beyond happy hour appear to be the ones whining most loudly about the changes, but I can't imagine they represent a very profitable segment of the market.