La Boca is the pretty new Latin leaning restaurant on the corner of Detroit and 58th in the Gordon Square Arts District. (The chef, Adam Schmith, posted a comment here in June shortly after it opened). It’s still more of secret than a destination. But don’t wait for the official review. Now’s the time to enjoy the place because there’s a sweet, secluded outdoor patio where flowering trumpet vines cascade over the fence, hydrangeas bloom, and brightly colored umbrellas provide shade. Not long ago, the husband and I had a good dinner there, lingering contentedly till dusk over a pitcher of sangria.
Bread and three tasty spreads- chickpea tapenade, herbed butter with citrus zest, and black bean puree- kicked things off. Then we dug into a big plate of calamari. Seems like every place has this on appetizer list but Chef Schmith’s was exceptional: light, free of heavy breading, and partnered with an appealing cucumber ginger salsa, lime marmalade, and chili aioli. An arugala and spinach salad was just right for summer, flecked with bits of fresh, juicy grapefruit, mango, papaya, and strawberries, dotted pine nuts and goat cheese, and splashed with champagne vinaigrette. More mango in a salsa served with big fat pan roasted sea scallops and corn cakes- much to like in this dish. Brisied short ribs are generally too rich for this time of year in my opinion but this tender rendering in a luscious coffee bean barbecue got some seasonal balance from a crunchy jicama, zucchini and carrot slaw.
Schmith, whose resume includes stints at One Walnut, Moxie, the Ritz Carlton and most recently Melange, clearly knows what he’s doing. The restaurant’s owner Rosita Kukut is of Argentine descent and I hope she and Schmith do more to spotlight that country’s cuisine in the future. The chef has the skill to pull it off and it’s a niche no one in town is filling.
Don’t be deterred by the road construction out front. An inconvenience to be sure but the street is still quite driveable and there’s plenty of parking in a lot behind the restaurant.