A few weeks ago, we celebrated our two year anniversary. To mark the occasion, we visited one of our favourite restaurants in Hamilton – Boo’s Bistro on 164 James St. South.
Hidden away amongst bartending schools and dance studios, this hidden gem offers a constantly changing menu of excellent quality meats and fish with an exotic twist. From the website:
Vibulan Aria is known as Chef Boo. The creator of feelings and flavours of the Far East to the West, referred to as “Fusion Cuisine”. Boo brings an ethnic flare to food that people love. He has a special ability to meld ethnic with continental cuisines that separates him from the rest.
According to our server, Vibulan is from Malaysia and originally came to Canada to train as an accountant. We’re delighted he went down the chef route instead!
I apologize in advance for the lower image quality – I forgot my camera and so we had to use the camera on Nicole’s Nexus 4. Not the worst, but we don’t think it did the food justice.
Ambiance & Decor
From the outside, Boo’s is a fairly unassuming building that you wouldn’t be blamed for walking past without noticing. While the entrance is up on the main street, the restaurant itself is set below the ground in a cozy room with a nice bar and only about 10-12 tables. The atmosphere is relaxed and quiet with slightly dim, warm lighting (but not so dim that you’re left squinting at the menu). Since our last visit, Boo’s has had some small renovations, including a nice new wooden floor that looks great.
Drinks & Food
Nicole and I didn’t venture into the drinks on this particular visit. However, as Boo’s is a “wine bar,” its drink selection is centred around a fairly sizeable wine list. Neither of us dislike wine, but we’re not crazy about it and the limited selection outside of wine is the one aspect of the visit that we thought was lacking. The bar does have a small range of spirits and bottled beer, but my personal preference would be to see a few beers on draught (perhaps a spread of beers that pair well with their fantastic dishes) and an improved whiskey selection.
After placing our orders, we were given a complimentary dish of fried pita chips with a spiced lentil, carmamelised onion and mustard seed dip. The chips were lovely – crispy with a light taste so that that dip wasn’t overshadowed. The dip itself was excellent – it was mixed minimally so that none of the ingredients were lost while eating.
On this occasion we didn’t order any appetizers. However, on a previous trip we did order the crispy scallops (sorry, no pictures). We weren’t the biggest fans so thought we’d give the appetizers a pass this time.
Now, on to the mains, where Boo’s really shines. Boo offers an excellent selection of different meat dishes, which made choosing quite difficult. On our previous visit, Nicole got the seafood ravioli and I got the spicy ancho beef tenderloin, and we both loved our dishes. We weren’t tempted to re-order the same dishes, however as the menu had changed since our last visit and we wanted to try some of the exciting new additions.
After much deliberation, I decided on the Spiced Duck Breast, and I’m glad I did. I’ve had duck many times, but the majority of the dishes have been Thai or Chinese, so this was a new experience. The exterior was seared and perfectly crispy, and the interior was cooked to perfection (the pictures show it’s nice and pink). The accompanying mushrooms had an excellent texture to match the duck’s, and the red-wine braised cabbage was a perfect level of sweetness. This has to be one of my favorite dishes I’ve ordered at a restaurant.
Unusual for her, Nicole choose a curry dish. It consisted of a wonderfully creamy curry sauce, heavenly Naan bread and a perfectly cooked fish fillet with a toasted breadcrumb exterior. Try as we might, we just can’t seem to remember what kind of fish it was – I believe it was the grouper, but our notes for this dish seem to have disappeared. Clearly we need to be better bloggers and take more care with our notes! The fact still remains, though, that the dish was fantastic.
Our food took roughly 25 minutes to come out on a roughly capacity night. I would say this is slightly longer than average wait for food, but about what you would expect for an upscale place serving such excellent dishes. The server was very friendly in very knowledgeable about the food he was serving. The only down side was that he seemed a little overworked at points since he was the only server on.
Although neither of us are vegetarians, Nicole isn’t crazy about red meat and often goes for a vegetarian option. However, Boo’s had not listed their vegetarian offer and we had to ask to even hear about it. Because there were new items on the menu from our previous visit, it may be that the menu changes regularly – however, the vegetarian option should still be easily found on the menu or at least an additional paper if it changes more frequently.
It would also be nice to make sure the website and in-house menu are synchronized. People may visit hoping to order an item they saw on the website only to find it’s not available that night.
The Final Word
With food as good as Boo’s it’s hard to go wrong. On top of that, the warm atmosphere and the friendly service make it a pleasant spot to eat.
While prices are higher than average, it IS upscale dining and we think they’re fair for the quality of food you can expect – it just means we can’t go as often as we’d like!
The only improvements we’d like to see are a more diverse alcohol selection and more vegetarian options.
This is one of our favorite restaurants in Hamilton and we don’t hesitate to give it an enthusiastic five out of five hammers.