TAKE A NUMBER" Veal rib chop (306) is very tasty, with a hint of chew.
To get questions about the name out of the way, “bokx” is the industry term for boxed cuts of meat, and number 109 is prime rib. There are other numbers on the menu here too: 103 (rib eye); 173 (porterhouse); 204 (rack of lamb); 413 (pork loin). Personally, I preferred the hides and branding irons on the walls of the old steak houses, but cowboy culture is so last year; ours is the age of industrial chic. The dreamy techno soundtrack at BOKX 109 bridges the industrial name of the restaurant and the new age graphics of the hotel in which it’s located. How does all of this work for a place just off Route 128, south of the Massachusetts Turnpike? I don’t know, but the buyers of a defunct Holiday Inn thought they did, and here we are.
|BOKX 109 | 617.454.3399|
399 Grove Street (Hotel Indigo), Newton | Open Sun–Thurs, 5 pm–midnight, and Fri & Sat, 5 pm–1 am | AE, DC, DI, MC, VI | Full bar | Valet parking complimentary | Street-level access
We walked past a bar with TVs set to sports and into a dark dining room with an up-market steak-house menu. You thought the steak luxe thing had reached its limit when Boston Public closed, but no. We sat down at a dark wood table set with refracted red water glasses, upside down salt and pepper grinders, and a switchblade-looking steak knife for big meat orders.
My favorite appetizer was calamari frito misto ($12), for its impeccable dry-fry job and presentation in a checked paper cylinder. Warning: the accompanying fried green beans are harmless, but the fried red chili peppers can do serious harm to the unprepared. The red dipping sauce also has hot spice and a hint of smoke. Many will prefer not to dip.
Also quite good were the crab cakes ($16), three all-meat patties crisped on the top and bottom, but so meaty they fall apart. On each one is a little salad of frisée and green apple shreds. Mussels ($12) are seasonally plump and served in a tomato linguiça broth that builds up some hot pepper intensity. (Our server warned us about this one.) Asparagus salad ($12), from the “Bokx of Greens” menu sub-section, is presented with a crisp-fried coddled egg. This would be a classic if the egg didn’t end up solid due to the extra deep-fry step. Excellent wild mushrooms enhanced with truffle oil are included in this salad, but a side dish of the mushrooms ($8) gets you a lot more of them, so if you’re mainly into the fungi, have them as an appetizer.
All the meat entrées — and almost everything else — have a listed source. This seems very eco-friendly and advanced, and sometimes it is. But, for example, there’s the 306 (veal rib chop, $39), from “Marcho Farms, Harleysville, Pennsylvania.” Sounds very bucolic and pastoral, right? In fact, Marcho Farms is a large veal packer, with many sources, that’s been pressured over treatment of calves and use of hormones. They changed their practices in early 2007; the present product is very tasty veal with a hint of chew, which is generally what happens when you stop penning the calves and drop the hormones. Our chop came with terrific onion strings and grilled green and red peppers. They’re supposed to be jalapeños, but the red one had the lingering fire of a serrano — again, watch out. A side order of haricots verts ($8) were actually just green beans, here served with undercooked pearl onions and very smoky bacon.
The rib eye ($45) is from “Myers Farm, Black Foot Valley, Montana.” This really is a single source, with a pedigreed red Angus herd. The animals are fed an all-natural (but not necessarily grass) diet, and don’t receive hormones (that’s the BOKX 109 bottom line). It makes for fine — not amazing — beef, served medium-rare as ordered, with onions and peppers.
Our salmon ($29) was from Scotland; it was wood-grilled a little too long, but to no great harm because it’s such a fat fish. It was served on baby spinach (not the collard greens described on the menu, but again, no issue for me) and undercooked white beans flavored with that too-smoky bacon — and maybe a somewhat old slice at that. I know white guys can’t jump, but why can’t they cook dried beans? It’s pasta that’s supposed to be al dente; dried beans are supposed to be soft. The description of the salmon also lists “Karma jitters.” That’s not the condition of a boutique hotel investor in October 2008, but a tangy barbecue sauce based on Karma-brand coffee. Scallops ($28) are from Georges Bank and they’re terrific: pan-seared with lots of sharp micro greens and a wisp of Champagne butter sauce.