74 Shore Rd, Glen Cove
(516) 674-8000 | bocakbny.com
Don’t discount a restaurant because it’s empty. Exhibit A is Boca, which opened six months ago on Shore Road in Glen Cove. (Steam Boat Landing previously occupied the location.)
On a bitter cold January weeknight four of us were the only diners at this spacious waterfront spot—but many factors impact attendance at restaurants and some of them have little to do with the food. Many new restaurants are only gradually discovered by diners (this one will be a summer stand-out) all of which is to say that Boca serves generous portions of well executed, solid American and Mexican food that’s earthy, bright and imaginatively plated. Boca (“mouth” in Spanish) has high ceilings, drop lighting, wood paneling, floor-to-ceiling windows and magnificent daytime harbor views.
Bare tables and floors provide a rustic spin and excerpts from Charles Darwin’s travel diary on the wall make for interesting reading. The quality of the glassware and napkins are an early indication of good things to come and this is confirmed with the arrival of a bountiful basket of absolutely addictive potato chips and plantains accompanied by a mild salsa.
Boca’s half American, half Mexican menu encourages diners to skip main courses and order a diverse array of appetizers, raw bar selections, salads and botanas (Mexican snacks). We hopped back and forth, focusing more on the side that offered Mexican comfort food for its varied flavors and moderately-priced dishes. For me the star of the Mexican menu was also its least expensive: A comforting, homey, corn soup ($8) with a corn truffle and a centerpiece of floating tortilla strips given a welcome richness by epazote cream.
The American side of the menu yielded a fresh, straightforward, organic baby golden and red beet salad ($14) sprinkled with pistachios and alive with micro greens. The two most expensive Mexican dishes we ordered, diver scallops ($19) and crab cakes ($21) provided agreeable eating but the portions were skimpy: Three teeny scallops in an ordinary mole sauce with a few pumpkin seeds and some pop corn dust; two small, fl at crab cakes with plate-mates of micro herb salad and corn salsa.
Among the heartier, lower priced picks were the beef ($16) and chicken ($14) taquitos. The three bulging beef taquitos featured strips of tender, marinated skirt steak, salsa and radishes while the chicken variety was an amalgam of spice and depth from its tomatillo salsa, substantial black beans and crema Mexicana. Also recommended are the bountiful, boldly flavored mushroom quesadillas ($15) while the four plump Yucatan shrimp ($15) received mixed reviews for their file influenced sauce that was too strong for some, but satisfying for others. A silken, circular blueberry cheesecake ($8) and warm housemade churros ($8) with a chocolate dip delivered an unnecessary but much appreciated finale.