Saturday, January 11, 2014

Boka Kantina

Boka Kantina, 1412 Starling Dr, Richmond
Restaurant Website (brunch menu below)

Karisa: It pains me to say this. It really, truly pains me; but here goes... Brunch at Boka was terrible. Really horribly terrible. I had such high hopes. Boka is super close to my house. I've had several wonderful lunches and dinners there. I've had a few late night taco runs. They have a fantastic beer selection. However, they need to either stick to what they know, or start over with brunch. Where to begin? First, no mimosas or other brunchy drinks. I understand not having a liquor license (and therefore no Bloody Marys), but when you have brunch and a wine list, there should be mimosas. If you're not going to have mimosas, have a suggestion (or several) for a brunch beer. "I usually work lunch" isn't an excuse. Second, the brunch menu is extremely limited. Y'all know I like to order straight from the menu, and that just wasn't possible at Boka. I ended up going the 'without bacon' route and ordered the Green Eggs and Ham without bacon, and (from the regular menu) Shrimp and Grits without bacon. The egg tako was bland and uninteresting; and I'm not convinced that ham would have made a difference. The shrimp and grits taco (minus bacon), a typical favorite of mine just didn't taste great this weekend. I'm not sure if they didn't have their typical chef (I didn't see the owner around, who I usually see), but the food just wasn't up to the standards that I expect from Richmond's favorite food truck. Come on Boka, we're willing to give you another chance... but step up your brunch game, or just wait until lunch to open.

AndreaI think all of us had high hopes for brunch this week at Boka Kantina. Karisa and I had a delicious dinner here about a month ago and I was impressed with their cheap and diverse beer selection and variety of dinner items...wayyyy more than just takos (for your mouf, of course!). I highly recommend the mac and cheese if you ever visit. Staying true to brunch, however, we decided to order from the "brunch menu", which featured about a half dozen items. After an appetizer of "cheese fries" (honey truffle tater tots topped with farm cheese and delicious guajillo mayo sauce) aka the highlight of the meal, I ordered the breakfast quesadilla, featuring two types of sausage, egg, cheese, and a drizzle of special sauce on top. I found it to be flavorful, but the spices in one of the sausages (perhaps it was the Chinese variety?) had a taste that just didn't sit well with me. The portion of the quesadilla was so huge I could barely eat half. The coffee hit the caffeine spot and was suitable not not very memorable. We all were bummed that they did not have a liquor license so no mimosas could be embibed. Although there were some intriguing seasonal beers, I wasn't in the mood to try one. Our server didn't help the overall experience; she was slow to take our order and refill our beverages and generally unknowledgeable and not terribly friendly. This restaurant almost seemed like a completely different one than when we were here for dinner. I love you, Boka, and I'll likely be back for dinner and delicious adult beverages, but you don't quite have this brunch-thing down yet. Take a page from some of the other Richmond destinations and elevate your game a little bit...your patrons will greatly appreciate it!

KathyI should have known I would dislike Boka's brunch. All the signs were there from the start. For one, I have strong opinions on Richmond's ethnic food offerings. Like, so strong my friends probably think I've soapboxed them to death with obnoxious comparisons to THE BEST FOOD EVER in New York. But, the best fuel for any sustained rant is feeling like I've been proved right, again :) So, here I go. Basically, I think it's incredibly rare to find good ethnic food in Richmond. I have yet to find good Thai, Indian, Mexican (Tio Pablo's is a quite decent option, but still not at all the best I've had), Greek... the list goes on. So, I knew before I tried Boka's Asian/Mexican/American fusion for the first time that I'd probably be disappointed. The first time, I went to their food truck and while I don't remember what I had, it was good enough. Brunch at Boka is another story, not even reaching good enough. The kantina's location (Am I missing a joke about using 'k" in everything in their name and slogan? More on that later.) is in a sad strip mall with a view of a tire shop. The inside looks and feels bland. They did not have hot tea, nor any brunch-y drinks. I ordered the brunch quesadilla, which tasted as bland as the place looks. I could only taste the overwhelming sauce on top. I took a few bites and gave up. I can't finish without mentioning that I can't stand Boka's "Takos for your mouf" slogan. Again, the cutesy "k's" in everything just rubs me the wrong way, icing the cake. The gimmicky line reminds me that it's an attempt to attract attention when the food doesn't cut it. 

Rating: 2
Food Fair. We've been here for lunch or dinner before (and have visited the tako truck on many an occasion), but the brunch items were subpar. Without modifications, there were no vegetarian options for brunch. The portion of the quesadilla was large, but Kathy was disappointed with the lack of flavor and Andrea didn't care for the sausage that was used. The brunchers this week were unanimous that the tater tots were delicious, though. 
Service Fair. Our server was not knowledgeable about the menu and was unable to offer recommendations on what to order for brunch. In addition, service was just slow - slow to take order, bring drinks, get food... It wasn't terribly busy when we were there (perhaps a few other tables of patrons) so we would have appreciated at least a few more visits to refill our beverages.
Atmosphere -  Fair. Chalkboards run the width of the restaurant and feature the specials and beer menu. A framed poster of Chuck Norris jokes in the bathroom was the highlight of the decor. The main dining area lacked color but was enhanced by the beer bottles that lined the shelves. Because of the lack of jazzy art or interesting furniture, there was nothing to change the fact that you're in a strip mall. The restaurant didn't play music; the only audible sounds were those coming from the sporting events on the TV. We found this a bit odd. Despite the shortcomings, the location was convenient and the parking was easy.
Coffee/TeaGood. Tea was not rated this week, as Boka does not serve hot tea (only iced). The coffee was served in small cups that needed to be refilled often, but ....
Mimosa: Not Rated. No mimosas or other fun brunchy drinks. No liquor license. Sad panda.
Bloody Mary: See above. :(

Boka Kantina on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 17, 2013

F.W. Sullivans

F.W. Sullivan's Fan Bar & Grille, 2401 W Main St, Richmond
Facebook page (url redirects there)

Karisa: Andrea and I took one for the team and crossed another standard Fan bar off of our brunching list. I hoped for a 3 Monkeys experience, but expected a Buddy's experience. Unfortunately, we got what I expected. I've certainly put in some time at Sully's, but haven't really eaten there, so this was my first opportunity to see the food they have to offer. There weren't a ton of Karisa-friendly (vege-/pescetarian) options, so I went with the always reliable Huevos Rancheros, and made the wise decision to add avocado. I've had a lot of Huevos dishes during this almost two years of brunch blogging, and this was the first that made me think I was eating in a Mexican restaurant. I wondered if we'd somehow been transported to Mexico or Plaza Azteca. From the red sauce to the rice and the black beans, it tasted exactly the same. I just needed some cheese dip. It wasn't all together unpleasant, but certainly not what I've become to anticipate, especially when some places (like Water Coastal Kitchen) take their Huevos to a new level of taste amazingness.

In the end, I ate a respectable portion of my dish, drank a few mimosas, had several refills of underwhelming coffee, and enjoyed some good convo with my friend while watching some football (and my fantasy team lose.) I think this is the goal at Sullivan's, and they're excelling in that area. I'll just eat my brunch elsewhere, and head over for a Sunday Funday.

Andrea: After a half-marathon training run, I was ready to dig into a serious brunch at F.W. Sullivan’s. I can’t remember eating here before, although I have enjoyed a beverage or two in the evening with friends. The restaurant was decently crowded and there were several football games on, but I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't overwhelmed with the volume. Karisa and I had a booth, which ended up being quite cozy. I drank a lot of coffee (although it was watery and not all that enjoyable) and ordered the chocolate chip pancakes with a side of bacon. Overall, the pancakes were *okay*. Not mealy, like some restaurant pancakes sometimes are, but not too moist either. I think there were four pancakes in my stack, which was definitely a very healthy portion. Some of my ‘cakes were a bit overdone for my preference, so I was still able to pick around the browned bits and stay full. A little butter went a long way and I doused them with syrup to get to my moistness preference. The highlight of my meal was the bacon…super crispy and not fatty. A little oily perhaps, but I just dabbed it on my napkin, dipped in a little syrup (one of my guilty pleasures), and perfection! Our meal this week was just okay, but considering that some of the tables around us looked like they were dining on delicious burgers and sandwiches, I would consider coming here for a late lunch or dinner and watching a game. They had some good drink specials and plenty o’ TVs for your viewing pleasure.

Rating: 2
Food Fair. Andrea’s pancakes were decent, although they needed a little butter and a lot of syrup (individual servings of which were available in a basket set on the table). Bacon was crisp and not very fatty. Karisa’s dish tasted like it came from a Mexican restaurant, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but just unexpected based on the bar-type atmosphere. There were ample choices on the menu on the breakfast and lunch side of things. It seemed likely that F.W. Sullivan’s does lunch (and/or dinner) a lot better, because our surrounding tables that ordered sandwiches and burgers looked like their meals were a lot more appetizing.
Service Fair. After being a little slow to take our order, our server checked in on us a few times throughout the meal. She was moderately friendly and a bit sloppy pouring drinks, especially the water. We were hoping she would do a bit more to elevate the sub-par food, but alas…she did not.
Atmosphere Good. Sullivan’s is exactly what it wants to be. A standard bar that is no frills and good for sports and drinks. Mini curtains between booths helped create a little intimacy and helped stifle some of the noise from neighboring tables. Speaking of noise, it was moderately loud, but the space was big enough (and the ceilings tall enough) that it wasn't overwhelmingly loud as most bars are. Cool chalk drawing for Halloween on the chalkboard that displays the daily specials. Great music selection too.
Coffee - Fair. Although it came from local roaster Blanchard’s (which we normally love), this brew was watery and a bit bitter. None of the coffee accompaniments (cup, milk, etc.) added anything special to elevate the rating.
Mimosa Fair. Several options are available – standard, w/ vodka, “man-mosa”, pitcher. Very well priced. However, it was a bit watery and the quality of the OJ and sparkling wine weren't anything to blog about.
Bloody MaryNot rated. No Michele. Although it seemed to be a "make your own", so we know she'd have been unhappy.

F.W. Sullivan's Fan Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon