A while back Troya and I visited Booka in Aptos. We were impressed with the food, felt the drinks and wine could use some work, and were not impressed with the service. Lored back by the food, our recent experience was quite different, for the better. The food was still excellent, maybe even better. The wine list has expanded, and the service we had was great. Myles, our server, was cheerful and knowledgeable, busy but very attentive, and had great recommendations on wine pairing with our entrée. Booka has broken through, it is now a “go-to” here in Aptos.
We have all been waiting for something to “stick” at the Bayview Hotel in Aptos, CA. Over the years several restaurants have come and gone. Some quietly, some in front of a national audience thanks to Restaurante Barolo being on the Food Networks Restaurant Impossible. That didn’t work out too well. Now we have Booka, the newest inhabitants at our local “haunted” hotel. Troya and I stopped by on 4th of July and enjoyed what they had to offer on this limited menu day, so we decided to return for the full experience. The new owners and both chefs hail from Israel and the menu definitely has a Mediterranean feel with a California/Organic influence as well.
We did not have reservations and were told we would have to sit at a table without shade. While it was one of the warmest evenings of the year in Aptos, we did not mind the table, but noticed many other open tables throughout our meal. We decided to start with a couple cocktails and appetizers. The drink menu has several intriguing mixology options, unfortunately at this and our last visit none of the drinks had the “pop” of flavor they should have given the ingredients, and all ended up looking and tasting very similar. Our appetizer fennel salad was good, decent portion, but nothing memorable flavor wise. The focaccia bread with three dipping sides on the other hand was fabulous. The bread alone has great texture and flavor, and the three sides, all unique and flavorful, each held their own. They include a lemon yogurt, a smoked eggplant and a roasted tomato. You cannot go wrong with any of them.
All of the entrees looked appetizing but I choose the halibut with polenta and Troya had the lamb pasta. I was very happy with my selection. The polenta was perfectly cooked, not gritty or mealy, but smooth and creamy with a smoky corn flavor. I have not had any better. The halibut was a perfect match and also perfectly cooked. Troya’s pasta was also very good. The noodles were handmade, not an easy find in this area, and the lamb had enough flavor without being gamey and was seasoned nicely with fresh mint. We both had wine with dinner, but nothing spectacular. I would have liked to see more options on the wine list, either intriguing foreign varietals or more of our various local wineries.
The one thing that kept haunting our meal was poor coordination. We ordered our drinks and appetizers at the same time yet waited over 5 minutes after our appetizers arrived for our drinks. We never had bread delivered to our table, but it looked very good at the other tables around us. We also mentioned that we were going to order wine with dinner, and while our server recommended we get our dinner choices in early so the chefs could get everything ready, we had to reminder her that we wanted wine after she delivered our meals. We then waited over 5 minutes for our wine. We did overhear her tell another table that this was her first waitressing job, so our experience might not be the norm, but we do remember waiting a long time for our drinks on our first visit.
So while they say that good service can make up for a mediocre meal, I would say the opposite is true here. And while good service can make one good meal, good food is what you build a restaurant around. They definitely have the core for a long term relationship with our beloved historic hotel, great food and great location. A little fine tuning and Booka could definitely become a go-to in Aptos!