217 East 7th Street, b/w Ave B & C
Dinner, Tue-Fri only, 6pm-midnight
Amex, Visa, MC
With a name like that I expected food that I might find on those rather unglamorous 'Smorgasboard' cruises from Harwich to Esbjerg. Oh yes, all the usual stuff - herrings, mustard, frikkadeller with all the trimmings, piles of rotten berries, litres of cold vodka and small cloaks made of smoked salmon. So you would be forgiven for also thinking that this is a Scandinavian restaurant. With a name like Boogstrom, what else would they serve?
"So Mr Casseus, what is the concept behind Boogstrom?"
He muses: "I was sick of places, that, you know, when you walked in, you sort of knew what to expect. I wanted to create something different. I only serve a 6-course prix-fixe, and it's what I want to serve, nobody has choices, bollocks to them. There's no menu, so all the pissheads from 7B or Manitoba's turning up to eat will be surprised, no doubt about that, Bro."
"Indeed. So why the name Boogstrom?"
"I have a real tit of a friend who makes these things up. He's a proper cock. The name just sounded great though, and really throws people off the scent, like it did you eh? Expecting Scandie grub were ya? He he."
It's clear that Mr Casseus has some unique ideas in the restaurant-choked environs of the East Village. There were other unique aspects to our visit on this particular night, one of them being the bar which is seemingly self-service. While our coats were being taken, Mr Casseus, who is in his kitchen behind a glass screen asks whether we want a drink. Why yes, we'd love a drink.
"It's in the fridge over there, some white, some beer, some red for later, get stuck in. Don't hold back. Mi casa, su casa."
While we sheepishly raided his fridge for wine, Mr Casseus told us what he wanted to serve. His menu is novel, and truly international. Tonight, we were to eat: Cream of broccoli soup with garlic crostini, white bean salad with shitakes, mussels Provencal, Cornish hen with gratin spud and spinach and finally pumpkin cheescake. So then, that's English, Italian with a Japanese twist, SW French and American?
Mr Casseus is self taught. Despite physical hindrances and lacking the poise and delicate flourishes of the classically trained, he manages to churn out some remarkable food.
First let me focus on what was great about Boogstrom East. The broccoli soup was a fine edition, full of vegetable flavour and enhanced with a smatter of black pepper and cream. Perched atop it, a wonderfully sweet roast garlic crostini. Casseus has roasted the garlic long and slow, and this sort of treatment taxes the pungency from the clove and renders it sweet, silky and a pleasure to smear on toasted bread. The white bean salad was a simple liaison of beans, fried shitakes, herbs and tomato with an olive oil and lemon dressing, the kind of salad you'd want to eat while standing in a pair of Speedos with the sun on your back, floating around on your mate's pimped-out yacht anchored somewhere off of Cannes, sipping a chilled glass of something very expensive. By all that, I mean delicious. A very seasonal pumpkin cheesecake shows that Casseus has studied the pastry arts too - A thick, burnt orange cream core lounging on a disc-shaped stretcher of chocolate cookie. Tremendous. I'd have called it Pimpin' cheesecake.
Sadly, there were some dishes that demonstrated that Boogstrom East has some way to go before being the finished article. Mussels Provencal came as a blood red, highly reduced sauce that had a massive acidic kick to it, like being slapped round the chops with a giant lemon. The mussels were overcooked too and had the texture of pencil eraser. I couldn't bear to bite down on them. A Cornish hen, while beautifully roasted with succulent giving flesh, lacked a touch of seasoning unfortunately, and it's partner, the potato gratin, had been ushered in and out of the oven all too quickly resulting in a undesirable chalky texture.
The great things about Boogstrom East far outweigh the bad. The mistakes made in the kitchen would be easy to correct. Boogstrom East will mature in time, and take it's spot in the culinary pantheon of the Lower East Side. In the meantime, I will certainly continue to enjoy eating there, not least for the experience of Mr Casseus' company who delights in reigning over his 6-cover empire.