Boca’s paired dining series, Cadenza, elevates and emphasizes the restaurant’s unparalleled culinary expertise

In celebration of Boca's 15th anniversary, chef/owner David Falk created dining performances inspired by Classical music, the first of which is titled Arc en Ciel — a rainbow.

click to enlarge Boca’s first palate performance, Arc en Ciel, achieves the perfect pairings of food and wine. - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Boca’s first palate performance, Arc en Ciel, achieves the perfect pairings of food and wine.
Boca Cadenza: a dining experience inspired by Classical music and the short, intense instrumental solos that captivate both the artist and audience alike. Much like the impression left after a musical cadenza, the inimitable Boca aims to create a series of dining performances that hone in and focus on an individual theme, designed to stand out and shine, leaving patrons speechless.

During the restaurant’s 15th anniversary, Boca has raised the bar and set out to push the limits of its already high standards. Chef/owner David Falk was not satisfied with being complacent in his success — “coasting,” as he puts it — so he came up with the concept of the cadenza to hit this anniversary in full stride, pushing harder and challenging the restaurant’s already notable craft and craftsmanship.

“What would it look like if we took that idea (of a cadenza) and injected it into our genre?” Falk asks in a promotional video. “This idea of a small window of time and we just drive hard at something — high risk, high reward — for us and for the guests. What would that look like?”

Over the course of the next nine months, Falk will present three “high-flying, heart-throbbing” dining performances, the first of which is titled Arc en Ciel — a rainbow.

In this wonderfully manic quest for the perfect pairings, Falk and his team consciously and simultaneously match exceptional food with exceptional wine to truly elevate the experience of each. The wine sings more with each bite of the dish, and the dish dances more with each sip of the wine. 

While I feel unqualified to deliver a true sommelier’s perspective of the wine pairings, I can confidently and comfortably speak to the accomplishment I believe Arc en Ciel achieved. I entered into the meal acutely conscious and prepared so that my seemingly untrained palate could both experience and evaluate the quest. And I believe, for the first time, I understand what it means when wine and food pairings do what they are truly designed to do — enhance, elevate and intensify.

The cadenza performances take place on the more fluid and relaxed second floor of the restaurant. With limited seating and required reservations accommodating parties of two, four and six, everything appears intimate yet inviting. Even the servers have an air about them, operating in a way that makes the title of “server” feel inaccurate. Managers perhaps? The staff was a group of knowledgeable and impassioned adults, donning blazers and denim with fabric flowers pinned to their lapels. Their presentation and attitudes encapsulate the expectation of the evening: relaxed yet indulgent. 

And indulge is just what my husband and I did. We opted for the Grand Tasting ($195), a six-course meal with wine pairings. It was an over-the-top move, but we both love fine-dining experiences as much as we do attending concerts. With both, we pay some serious cash, but more often than not, it is time and money well spent. 

We began our night with a surprise first course of champagne and caviar. I’ve never known the aristocracies of caviar, but having my first taste with a glass of 2006 Laherte Frères Le Millésime Deux Mille Six was my own personal Arc en Ciel. The silky saltiness of the Jerusalem caviar melted blissfully with each bite, spooned atop a tiny mound of miniature gnocchi. Rich and fluffy, the two elements felt gratifying yet light.

The second course was the Arpège salad, inspired by chef Falk’s visit to the world-renowned, three Michelin-starred L’Arpège restaurant in Paris. This salad was comprised of fresh arugula, dandelion and fines herbes, and each petal and leaf tasted unique. Each bite had its own identity, complemented by a shallot vinaigrette and crouton crumbles. This dish was paired with Pascal Janvier Jasnières, a chenin blanc, which was as light, crisp and refreshing as the stripped-down salad itself.

The next course was one of my favorites of the evening — truffle pasta with a trio of shrimp, scallop and crab and a black truffle emulsion. Like the gnocchi, the pasta was light and airy while also being densely creamy and satisfying. The flavor of the truffle was present but balanced and divine combined with the sweetness of the shellfish. A Riesling called Schlossgut Diel Feinherb “Von der Nahe” did exactly what a riesling should do — tartly balance and pair beautifully with pasta. 

Following the pasta was halibut, served with duck jus and celery root foie gras hash. This, paired with Marcel Lapierre Morgon, started the transition toward depth and density. While the fish was fresh and flaky, and the gamay was crisp yet subtle, this dish made it clear the evening was beginning to ramp up. 

The fifth course was a Colorado rack of lamb and bean ragu. Served on the bone, the cut was not compromising or overwhelming. Given that each course was a tasting portion, this cut felt achievable and delicious coming so late in the evening. It was championed by the Riecine di Riecine, a sangiovese that presented itself seriously but accessibly — like the lamb, it was hearty and satisfying.

The final course, beef wellington, was by far the most impressive of the evening — a warm and hearth-like dish. Beef tenderloin was wrapped in prosciutto and baked with an outer layer of pastry. Even though we’ve been experiencing an 80-degree October, this dish wrapped me in a plaid pashmina and had me sitting next to a crackling fire. I’m not typically a beef appreciator, but I savored this one as if it was the delicacy of dreams. Its pairing with a Château Gombaude-Guillot Pomerol, a Bordeaux that was as savory as the wellington, brought me to the end of the rainbow, a stuffed and satisfied belly my personal pot of gold. 

From the dishes themselves to the service and intimate and intricate thought put into every detail of the cadenza, the Arc en Ciel is a near-complete reconceptualization of what it means to dine at Boca — beyond a food challenge, beyond a wine challenge, beyond just a new experience. For this performance, I believe they captured their unicorn.

The Arc en Ciel will continue through Nov. 5. The second performance is slated to run from Jan. 16-Feb. 11, and the third will run March 9-April 8. 


Tickets ($75-$195) and the theme for the next BOCA CADENZA will be made available Dec. 16. For more info, visit bocacincinnati.com/cadenza.

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