6372 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood CA 90028 (map); 323-465-8500; bohorestaurant.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A hybrid of styles makes for a confusing and ultimately unsatisfying burger
Want Fries with That? Yes, please. Chef Andre Guerrero has mastered the Belgian-style fry
Prices: Cheeseburger, $14 (served with fries)
Notes: Happy hour doesn't take the bite out of the burger price, but pizzas and beer are half off from 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Not sure why, but there's no burger to be had during brunch/lunch on the weekends
As an adult I've found the expectation attendant to the opening of a second (or third, or fourth) restaurant from a chef I've come to admire is something akin to the early stages of a relationship. The awkward, get-to-know-each-other phase has passed. So too the numinous rush of headiness before a first kiss. We know each other and we get along. As far as my hopeful nature is concerned, the relationship could go on forever. But this is often, if not usually, a fiction—a story told to oneself about a possible future of a life yet lived... a meal yet eaten. It's absolutely riveting.
Of course, when it comes to my liking chefs, nothing initiates a crush as fast as a great burger. Andre Guerrero put together the truly excellent burger at his "slow fast food" eatery The Oinkster in Eagle Rock. It's a burger that has, for years, been on my short list of Los Angeles' very best.
When a chef who's made one of my favorite burgers in the city decides to set up a new (and swankier) restaurant that is a ten minute drive from me, the giddiness hits school-girl proportions. BoHo is the latest restaurant to open under the guidance of chef Andre Guerrero. When I hear he'd be serving a new, higher-end version of his hamburger-shaped love letter, I could barely wait to rush in. It seemed this eating relationship would be getting serious.
For this restaurant, Guerrero has teamed with Adolfo Suaya. The latter is among the elite restaurant-cum-night spot impresarios in town. His C.V. includes Gaucho Grill, Geisha House, The Lodge Steakhouse, and Dolce. I've eaten at all of them. Once.
BoHo sits on Sunset Boulevard in a development that includes our highest-end cinema chain, a Cordon Bleu facility, a place called Club Sushi that (I guess) is a restaurant, and a gym. I know—welcome to Los Angeles. In any case, the development is relatively new and feels even newer than that. It's all concrete, brushed aluminum, and boom economy.
If you take a peek at their website you'll find an explanation of the name BoHo as being derived from the words "Bohemian" and "Hollywood." That may be what they were thinking, but, of course, they aren't the first to use it. "Boho" has long been the short form of "bohemian" and gets thrown around fashion circles like a gauzy, cotton wrap. No matter, the name is theirs and they have run with the theme.
Walking inside you'll find a very self-conscious mix and matched décor that is trying to look, well, bohemian. That the designer had to add a patina to all the gleaming newness of the space makes it feel mix-matched, but not in the flea-market decorated way for which it's striving. It feels bohemian the way Epcot feels like Europe.
I order the BoHo Burger Delux, which comes with Cambazola cheese (a mix of Camembert and Gorgonzola), caramelized onion, heirloom tomato, dill pickles, Thousand Island, fries, and aioli. If that sounds like a lot, don't worry—you are paying for it. At lunch time it will cost you $14.
The burger arrives looking like Hollywood red carpet regular. It's fancy, overdressed, and sporting a major faux pas like an aging ingénue: For some reason, it's already cut in two. I suspect it's a mistake, but the waiter informs me that this is how they are always served. Sadly, intentionality doesn't mitigate the effects of a bad choice. Why they do this is beyond me. Cutting my burger not only feels like taking liberties (at this very fragile time in our relationship), but it also allows juices and heat to escape out of the patty. That, as they say, is my (mouth's) job.
The patty is a substantial half-pound of ground chuck that is likely the ten-criteria Angus. It's a hefty portion of meat that is balanced against the condiments. That said, there seems to be a major flaw in its grind: It is so fine that it almost feels pasty. It's a strange contrast to the beautifully coarse grind at The Oinkster. The cooking temperature is spot on, or should I say, was spot on. The color gradient looks good, but the interior of the burger is cool. Don't be fooled—proper medium rare is warm in the middle. The lack of temperature is likely due to that damnable bisecting of my burger. That the burger features some layered greenery is another problem, not because of its presence but because of the lack of its mention on the menu. Our communication seems to be breaking down.
The bun is another strange choice that disappoints. It's attractive and rather rustic looking, but its exterior is flaky (as in, flakes come off of it) and the interior lacks the sponginess to properly form around the sandwich. With each bite, I feel like I'm a moment away from the whole structure of the burger falling apart.
The toppings are all tasty and high-quality, but there is a bit of an identity in crisis atop this patty. The pickles, grilled onions, and Thousand Island are Southern California-style burger regulars, but the stinky cheese, while perfectly melted, seems a self-conscious choice to make this a "high-end" burger. The funk of the Gorgonzola doesn't meld with the sweetness of the onions and Thousand Island. The tastes are at cross purposes. Without any significant whiff of char from the beef, there is little hope for unity from all of these embattled flavors.
In the end, the BoHo burger just isn't for me. Despite all of my admiration for Andre Guerrero, it feels like the end of the affair. When considering the reasons for this, I think through this bizarre love triangle: There's me, there's Guerrero, and then there's his new partner Suaya. My sentimentality says, "It's not me and it's not him. It's the other him." But, in the end, I can't be sure.
Guerrero has taken flight to that level of chef-dom that means your restaurants come with partners who are called impresarios. I don't begrudge him this new kind of success I just can't get on that plane with him. It's okay though. We'll always have Eagle Rock.
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