It seems as though Chicago is being taken over by the Boka Restaurant Group. But who are they? Founded by Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm, the Boka Group has become one of Chicago’s premier restaurant groups in the country. With three internationally recognized chefs, Stephanie Izard, Paul Virant, and Giuseppe Tentori, the Boka Group has taken over the Chicago dining scene in a mere eight years.
It all started with Boehm and Katz first restaurant Boka, derived after their last names. With Giuseppe Tentori at the reigns, Boka has been awarded numerous awards, including Food and Wine’s Best New Chef (2008) and a coveted Michelin Star rating two years in a row. But how does one follow up such a highly regarded restaurant? With a seafood bar, of course.
The concept behind GT Fish & Oyster, named after Chef GT, takes both a traditional and modern approach on seafood. How? Chef Tentori offers a menu that features French Osetra Caviar Service and fish tacos, that’s how.
The menu actually consists of cold items, hot plates, oysters, and non-seafodd dishes. Our party of four was out for Jeffy’s birthday, and we were pretty hungry. We ordered nine different dishes, a little off of each menu, minus the non-seafood dishes. Our meal began with a the lone cold item on our list: Baja Shrimp Bruschetta. Each order has four pieces; we wound up ordering two. A twist on traditional bruschetta, this masterfully crafted appetizer has hints of citrus and cilantro, with crisp textures from the bread and nuts.
Arguably the most interesting thing we ordered…oysters. The four of us were rookies and had no idea how to order them, differences in taste, anything. Our server was kind enough to explain the different types: east coast and west coast. There were allusions to the feud between Biggie Smalls and Tupac, which were quite amusing, but really there is some truth to the comparisons. One type of oyster is plump, like the rapper. Additionally, tastes differ, with one being more grainy and saltier than the other. How did we like them? Well, let’s just say that we’re going to order oysters cooked…and we did.
Following the cold dishes were an array of hot items. Among the plates were oyster po’boy sliders, gnocchi with smoked salmon, fish and chips, lobster roll, striped bass, and GT lobster mac n cheese. Easily one of the best things I’ve eaten in recent memory, the oyster po’boy sliders. Lightly breaded and fried, these bite-sized snacks are layered with kimchi and peanuts.
Highlighting the rest of our meal in a single word: divine. Gnocchi so rich and creamy, served with a copious amount of smoked salmon. Fish and chips fried to perfection, paired with a very subtle tartar sauce. A lobster roll overflowing with goodness, lying next to a bed of friend onions. Striped bass so succulent, complemented by a variety of vegetables. Mac n cheese that lives up to all the hype. There honestly isn’t anything that we didn’t enjoy.
Rounding out our birthday celebration, a pair of Pastry Chef Sarah Jordan’s delectable creations. One, a creme brulee that seemed to be made effortlessly, but tasted extraordinary. The caramelized top was covered with pieces of fruit, which sweetened the custard dessert. Two, a salted banana caramel tart served with a palate cleansing vanilla ice cream. A pair of stunning desserts to end an already amazing dinner.
Were we surprised to be wowed by the Boka Group’s latest creation? No, but it’s the way that Chef Tentori does it. Taking a traditional approach to cuisine and tying modern elements, mixed with the seasonality of ingredients. That’s why Chef Tentori is one of the best.