Merriam-Webster defines a bohemian as “One who lives an unconventional life, such as a writer or artist, usually in a colony with others.” And its popular offshoot “boho” has been adopted as the “new wave of hippie glamour” according to the Urban Dictionary, including long hair, clothing with beads and sequins, and a means to making thrift-shop items cool. Boho also brings with it a spirit of freedom and maybe just a little rebelliousness.
Cafe Boho, newly opened on Steiner Street, seeks to lend a bohemian sensibility to sophisticated yet casual dining. The restaurant conveys this ethic of spontaneity, creativity, and collective harmony by offering patrons a refuge from the real world where “you can let your inner child run free,” according to its website.
Platitudes aside, Boho offers a full menu of share plates, mains, desserts, weekend brunch, breakfast, lunch, and dinner; each dish offers at least one unusual ingredient or combination that both startles and satisfies. Its management team calls it California-American cuisine with a strong French influence.
At the kitchen helm is chef Andrei Bushuev and sous chef Evan Brittell. Bushuev learned to cook as a child in Eastern Europe and has served as a sous chef at Cavallo Point in Sausalito and at Absinthe in Hayes Valley and executive chef at Waterfront. Brittell, who is in his early 20s, was formerly an executive pastry chef for the Napa Valley Wine Train. He started cooking professionally in his hometown of Seattle when he was 17.
Boho’s interior is a bit cluttered, with chunky wooded tables and chairs in front and a small bar and open kitchen in back. Dark wood paneling accented by wines encased in glass and a vaguely boho-hippie print on one wall lend to the cafe’s eclectic atmosphere. Large windows at the front bring in much-needed light.
The summer dinner menu strikes a balance of small and large plates and seafood, meat, and vegetarian offerings. Starters and share plates include oysters with mignonette ($18/$33); steamed mussels with crème fraîche ($19); lobster and burrata ($24); and salads, including a smoked peach salad with mixed greens, ricotta, basil seeds, macadamia nuts, and a pomegranate dressing ($14) — already a crowd-pleaser. Naughty but yummy truffle fries with cheese, garlic, herbs, and a hint of duck fat ($10) are good to share to ease the guilt.
Also offered is the “seacuterie” with sturgeon boudin blanc, tuna pastrami, and salmon Napoleon, salmon rillette accompanied by house-pickled vegetables, caper berries, trout roe, lemon oil, and served with bread. At $32, there is plenty for two or more.
Mains range from a vegan entrée with wild rice ($17) and octopus with corn three ways ($30) to a 10-ounce pork chop with pork belly and a 36-ounce prime rib eye for two ($86). There are choices to suit a variety of diners’ diets, appetites, and wallets.
Sunday brunch standards include eggs any style with potatoes, salad, and a choice of bacon, prosciutto, or vegetables ($14); a ham and cheese omelet ($12); and other classics, including French toast with berry compote and whipped mascarpone ($13); and eggs Benedict with a choice of duck confit, smoked salmon, or vegetables ($13-$17). Those more in the mood for lunch can enjoy a burger ($18); or summer pappardelle with squash, ricotta, and a poached egg ($21); and (of course), avocado toast with herbs and a poached egg ($14). Many of the cafe’s dinner dishes are served for brunch as well, including the seacuterie board and a caviar tasting with crème fraîche, chives, and buckwheat blinis ($45/$90). A kids’ menu ($6–$10) is also available.
Those hankering for something sweet can choose a blackberry-lavender-lemon Napoleon ($12); “Not Pavlova” with meringue, almond financier, and raspberry whipped cream ($16/$6); or chocolate flan with orange marmalade ($10).
WINE, BEER, AND MORE
Sommelier George Cole breaks the ample wine list into categories from sweet to crisp and expressive to voluptuous, and aromatic and earthy. Both wines and beer hale from all over the world; many wines are offered both by the glass or the bottle. Boho also has a full espresso bar and very good, dark-roast coffee. The cafe also offers breakfast and lunch, featuring eggs, crepes, salads, and sandwiches.
If you’re feeling adventuresome and free-spirited or just in the mood for something new, give this intriguing upstart a try.
Cafe Boho: 3321 Steiner Street, 415-374-7518, cafebohosf.com; Tuesday–Thursday, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. & 5:30–10 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. & 5:30–11 p.m.; Sunday 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Happy hour: Tuesday–Friday 5:30–6:30 p.m. Saturday noon– 2 p.m. & 5:30–7:30 p.m. Menu items/prices are subject to change.