“We arrived in a happy state, and we are leaving in a blissful one,” we summed up our enjoyable dining experience at Boya for our Kobi, our waiter. Kobi smiled as one who has seen such happy faces before, and going by the lack of empty seats in the restaurant all night, he surely has seen such faces numerous times before.
But the moments leading up to the meal weren’t easy. We arrived for dinner after eating very lightly the whole day, settling for a sandwich and a snack, so as not to be too full. We left the house, showered, prepared, and on time, taking into account distance to destination and approximate driving speed. As I got into the car, I smiled to myself as I thought about Eeyore, the adorable donkey character from the Winnie the Pooh stories, who gravely told Winnie the Pooh that the nicest moment of the day is the one just before the meal. Indeed, I felt a sense of optimism and joy which made me think hard about what I was in the mood to eat. I let a rush of potential dishes go through my head, selecting those flavors which will satisfy me the most.
My companion for the evening, on the other hand, felt differently. His hunger turned him incommunicative, and as someone who had known him for a good number of years, I knew: he is too hungry to talk at all, let alone about food. In fact, his behavior reflected Winnie the Pooh, who in the aforementioned conversation between himself and Eeyore, said that his nicest moment of the day was the meal itself. Anticipation be damned, just let them eat!
Alas, as we approached the port of Tel Aviv, a queue of cars slowed us down to an eventual stop. The road was completely jammed, as endless cars flowed into the harbor, headed for dinner or a wedding. When we were finally first in line at the entrance to the parking area, the attendant closed the barricade and informed us the lot was full. I won’t tire you with the details, but sufficed to say we arrived at Boya in a very hungry state.
Much to our delight, we were met with efficient and courteous service, and within a short time, the first courses made their way tour table: baby calamari in cr?me fra?che, chili, and garlic; seared seasoned tuna with avocado and chipotle; and crispy cauliflower in chili sauce. When it comes to first courses the people at Boya fawn over no one. The 3 dishes ranged in spiciness from moderate-hot to scorching-hot, depending on the amounts of chili and ground black pepper used. To cool down the palette and balance the flavors, we had some of the warm focaccia, which Kobi sliced before our eyes with a pizza slicer. The calamari, which we are accustomed to having fried by default, is served cooked. This does away with the familiar effect of ‘crispy on the outside and soft on the inside,’ but brings out a tender simplicity that melts in the mouth. The calamari is out of this world, served in a rich cr?me fra?che based sauce. The tuna was fresh and tasty, but the highlight was the cauliflower. Boya can take a standard (I was going to say boring, but won’t risk offense) ingredient and turn it into a delicacy. The cauliflower was deep-fried and was crispier than we could ever imagine. Together with the hot and sweet sauce, it made for a brilliant dish, which made us groan with enjoyment. After we cleaned our plates, we sat back in contentment. Now we could relax.
The pleasure continued with the entr?es. We ordered grilled beef filet medallions in a red wine sauce over potato puree and asparagus – a meal in which every component was properly handled: the beef was prepared medium and was tender, the wine reduction was delicious, the potatoes were velvety and soaked with the sauce’s flavor, and the asparagus was crisp and fresh. In addition we were served a whole sea bream over oven-baked slices of vegetables. It was a beautiful meal, seemingly right out of a naturalistic painting – a black pan in which the fish was arranged besides the vegetables (yams, potatoes, gre