June 16, 2008
A party in your Bocca
Where on Ventura Boulevard can you get a glatt kosher prime rib eye steak infused with a garlic herb rub, broiled in an open fire while singing along to popular Israeli love songs performed by the legendary Pini Cohen?
Only at Bocca steakhouse, the much anticipated and talked about phoenix that rose out of the ashes of what was once Tempo. Filling the shoes of such an iconic Israeli hangout of the San Fernando Valley is not going to be an easy task, but Bocca seems to be settling right in.
I visited the steakhouse, only several months old, last Thursday night and the place was hopping. Every seat in the house was being warmed by a well-dressed lady or gentleman. Handsome waiters dashed about, carrying martini glasses, gorgeous-looking appetizers and thick, juicy steaks. Pini Cohen, a legendary Israeli entertainer, milled about saying hello to loyal fans and chatting with old friends. Cohen drew enormous crowds every Thursday night for his Israeli sing-alongs at Tempo, and the owners of Bocca wisely kept that tradition going, all the while changing everything else around it.
Patrons at the old Tempo may not have necessarily come for the food, though I’ve heard the Mediterranean fare was appetizing enough, whereas Bocca is making a serious attempt to attract diners to their high end cuisine and not just their “go to be seen scene.”
Bocca’s menu makes you wish you could dine out every week. Appetizers include Asian chicken satay over spiced crispy rice and apricot-glazed Moroccan chicken wings served with couscous. There is a delicious selection of soups, salads and pastas, but I had no interest in those options that night. I skipped straight to the entrees: the Bocca steak with bearnaise sauce, center cut medallions, pepper crusted London broil, prime rib black angus…it was a big decision.
I settled on the garlic rubbed prime rib eye steak with rice pilaf and roasted potatoes. I was not disappointed. The food was delectable. Lucky for me, by the time the food arrived, the enchanting Pini Cohen was on stage, which forced me to look up from my plate every few seconds and breathe between bites. In Hebrew, you would say that Cohen “ose sameach,” which literally translates to “Cohen makes happy.” But the saying really means that Cohen gets the party started.
And that he did. As soon as he started singing, the steaks were forgotten, wine glasses abandoned and chairs pushed aside as people got up to dance and sing along.
The entire restaurant, decked out in elegant furnishings, designer light fixtures and romantic candles turned into a rocking party scene. It was quite a transformation.
If Bocca can continue to impress with its delicious (and kosher!) cuisine as well as delight with its vibrant live entertainment, the corner of Ventura and Hayvenhurst is going to be, once again, one of the hottest spots in the Valley.