Were the name Soba, then sobriety might be in order. Dashi—broth, a foundation of cuisine itself—okay, you’re on solid civilized ground. But the joint’s called Bones. As in “bare.” As in “raw.” As in “bad to the,” “close to the,” “I feel it in my.” And you will—the second you enter, you’ll know you’re in for a sticky, slippery, gurgling, mess.
Mo & Beth were like rubberneckers to the head-on, bone-in, balls-out collision between me, the entire list of namazake & roughly half the menu. And I to theirs. And oh, it was horrific. Mo snapping pics of me sucking on the edges of cowbones. Beth, who was having trouble hearing in the din, explaining she gets drunk in her ears. Me scribbling notes like “best smiling potpourri” that must’ve seemed insightful at the time. Serious props go to a staff that, far from merely putting up with us (or, for that matter, not putting up with us), totally humored us, from comping a drink brought by mistake to slipping Mo a stemmed wineglass against official policy—keep that on the DL—to signing a menu we were passing ’round yearbook style “Everything’s better with bcflu.” That last, at Mo’s request, was courtesy of Bonnano himself, & we finally guessed it actually read “butter,” but since we know he knows some things we don’t, it was natural to assume bcflu might be some sort of secret ingredient, a hot-pink curly herb that grows magically in the ice caves of the Andes or something.
But here’s something he doesn’t know: I went in frankly doubting his marrow could come close to comparing to the marrow Jamie Bissonnette was whipping up back at Boston’s KO Prime last summer, with its oxtail marmalade & pickled lily stems
(of which more here).
I stumbled out, after 1 order split 3 ways & an encore order all my own, thinking altogether otherwise. Well, “thinking” might be an overstatement—but knowing in my heart I’d just had the best marrow I’d ever had & may ever have isn’t.
Roasted to a subtly toasty bitterness, spiced with the right amount of salt & something extra peppery, & at the same time
just as drippingly, purely fatty as you can imagine without spontaneously sobbing, in all its goodness it was all only enhanced by the accompanying fig mostarda.
Ditto w/r/t the wonderfully lemon-buttery sauce puddled under the escargot potstickers,
which only looked startlingly like
trilobites reanimating themselves before your very eyes
but tasted—come to think of it, they tasted like it too. In a very, very good way.
Mo’s take on Bones’s open-faced, pork belly–stuffed take on char siu bao
was that even that seemingly judicious drizzle of hoisiny sauce down the center of each, never mind the extra on the side, was too much for the delicacy within, & I have to agree. Actually, I so agree that I almost disagree—I wonder if pork belly should be buried in all that dough, however supple & fluffy, with fixins’ at all. The same goes for the egg rolls’ miso-braised short rib filling—
exquisitely formed, with glistening, crunchy shells & kickin’ homemade hot mustard for dipping, it could’ve been filled with miso-braised Werner Herzog’s shoe for all it ultimately mattered. I mean, it’s pretty much a backhanded criticism to say the buns & rolls were too good for their own good, that they stole their own scenes. Still, cheaper, robuster cuts of meat are the norm for good reason.
The fried shishito peppers were the sweeter counterpart to
Black Pearl’s somehow smokier ones with spice mix;
I gotta give the latter the slight edge (though of course peppers can vary greatly from batch to batch & any given rematch could be a victory for Bones). By a similar token, from the menu’s description of “pickled veggies”
I’d counted rather on veggie pickles, plutonium-grade tsukemono, so when I got what it said I’d get—carefully marinated cauliflower, carrots & cabbage—I was slightly disappointed to no fault of the kitchen’s. A worse misnomer is “black cod tempura”—
that’s pretty heavy batter for tempura. Granted, these big & beautiful chunks of sablefish would crush the proper thin, flaky crisp “tempura” implies—so why not just call ’em fritters? By that standard, they’re swell. Meanwhile, the inflammatory homemade Thai chili paste’s swell by any standard.
I stuck my chopsticks both in Mo’s poached lobster & edamame ramen & Beth’s egg noodles with crispy duck leg & oyster broth, but I don’t remember what happened next. Joy surges through me with but a glance at the pics, though, so whatever it was it must’ve been good.
And then there was the namazake.
Namazake, we were told, is unpasteurized sake, made in the winter—apparently sometimes in igloos by the drip process; any bcflu in there?—for spring drinking. I tried all 4 on the list, 1 of them twice—the Wandering Poet, just redolent of chocolate & pear; the Southern Beauty, with hints of licorice; the Wines of Fortune—a little spicy, touched, Beth detected, with orange peel; &, uh, one other, I guess with the initials HD, that according to my notes was deeper than something else.
Not, obviously, the pit of my stomach.