You’ve heard of speakeasies, but have you heard of speak-eateries? A growing trend of sometimes pop-up sometimes permanent, but always secret, restaurants are spreading throughout the United States. The most common type, and the hardest to get into, are referral only and that is the catch to eating at one of Manhattan’s best restaurants.
Located behind a high-end butcher shop in the Noho neighborhood of Manhattan, Bohemian is consistently serving up some of the best Japanese-American fusion food in the city. As an avowed foodie and lover of all things Japanese (especially the food), eating at Bohemian was a must on a recent trip to NYC.
As a referral only restaurant, it wasn’t as simple as opening up the OpenTable app. Fortunately, Bohemian will add your name to the list if you can plead a convincing case via email.
I wanted to communicate two ideas: that I love to eat, and I love Japan.
“I travel around the globe exploring food and culture. I love the food, design, and creativity of Japan. Thanks to two wonderful trips to Tokyo, Okinawa, and Hiroshima, I have fallen in love with Japanese food.
The level of precision, tradition, and presentation in each dish is something that I’ve been trying to rediscover stateside for some time.”
And those humble sentences managed to get me a reservation.
Bohemian sits in a nondescript building fronted by a (very good) butcher shop. Though the building was formerly owned by Andy Warhol and later Jean-Michel Basquiat, nondescript best describes it.
The entrance to the restaurant is down a long and dark hallway, bared by a locked frosted glass door. Upon ringing the buzzer and giving your name, the door is opened and into food nirvana you go (standard speakeasy procedure).
Upon entering the actual dining room, several design cues jump out at you. The perfectly curated Japanese garden, the mid-century green chairs, the signed instruments hanging on the wall, the massive skylight (a rarity in high rise Manhattan), and most refreshing of all, a very relaxed and enjoyable vibe.
If you scroll through the Yelp reviews, it’s clear that Bohemian is known for an incredible tasting menu (at a very reasonable price) and amazing beef, which they source from the butcher shop in front of the restaurant. As a convert to Japanese beef, I knew I was forgoing the tasting menu in favor of writing a personal food script.
The meal was everything I hoped for but with more American influence than I had originally pictured. The mac and cheese and foie gras soba were interesting combinations, but were quickly forgotten as I dived into the highlights of the meal: Uni Croquette (buttery and rich), Big Island Tuna Poke (fresh and delicious), and the Wash-Beef Steak Sampler (DecaDENT). We finished the meal and purely for the novelty factor, ordered the ash ice cream.
On its surface, a secret restaurant contains a very elitist connotation. A club for the rich, famous, and well connected. After eating at Bohemian, it’s clear that elitism isn’t the goal. Rather, they’re extremely focused on a curated experience: including the patrons, décor, and atmosphere (not to mention the food). By limiting the clientele to people who care enough about food, Japan, or being in the know to get a reservation, they are propagating the exact atmosphere they originally set out to create.
They’ve created a high-end gastronomic experience in a trendy space that’s simultaneously comfortable and inviting, an experience I can’t wait to run back to on my next NYC trip.