First Taste: Caffe Boa Bistro in Mesa

Caffe Boa Bistro

Mesa’s restaurant scene — or, more accurately, the lack thereof — has been the object of ridicule for decades. And I, admittedly, have been a frequent voice in that chorus.

So it’s taking some time for this to sink in: With last week’s opening of Caffe Boa Bistro at McDowell and Powers roads, Mesa now not only has a very good restaurant, but potentially one of the Valley’s best.

Boa Bistro, as it’s being called, is a spin-off of longtime favorite Caffe Boa on Tempe’s Mill Avenue. It’s smaller, more casual and offers a different, shorter menu than its sibling.

Caffe Boa BistroBut its biggest attraction is chef Payton Curry (pictured at left), the former Digestif star who took over Boa’s Tempe kitchen in October and is personally handling the launch of the Mesa location.

On Saturday night, the curly-haired Minnesota native is working behind the gleaming white bar, pulling wild-caught trout from a wood-fired oven and slicing house-cured proscuitto and sopressata.

Every so often, he makes a dash back to the kitchen, where plates of handmade pastas — gnocchi, ravioli and fettucini — and produce from boutique Valley farms — Seacat, McClendon, Maya’s and Singh — emerge.

The abbreviated Mesa menu, which showcases Curry’s farm-to-table philosophy, features seven starters, six pasta dishes and six entrees.

A few are taken straight from the Tempe menu, such as daily pulled mozzarella ($12), fall panzanilla salad ($10, pictured below), Cajun chicken penne ($15). mushroom-stuffed ravioli ($14) and Curry’s “Payt-N-Bake” fried chicken ($14).

Others are slight alterations. Fettuccine comes with house sausage and pecorinio romano instead of sweetbreads and alfredo sauce; the gnocchi is a carbonara version with crispy pork instead of free-range chicken.

But at least half of the dinner menu is compromised of tantalizing newcomers like meatball brushetta ($12, pictured above), braised osso bucco ($26), veal parmesan ($28).

Caffe Boa BistroI savor every bite of the SoCal Love ($12), a salad of heirloom buttercup lettuce, pulled organic chicken, toasted almonds, sprouts, avocado and some of the best winter tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.

A plate of charcuterie — pancetta, proscuitto, sopressata and bresaola — pecorino and MJ bread ($20) is big enough to share with a party of three I’m sitting next to at the bar.

The wine list boasts 26 whites and 27 reds by the glass ($6.50-$27.50) and more by the bottle ($26-$875), as well as a dozen bottled beers. But I choose the house sangria ($6 per glass), a nice complement to the salty meats and cheese.

The mushroom ravioli, made with small squares of paper-thin pasta known as agnolotti, is dressed with a tomato cream sauce whose flavorful kick enlivens my taste buds.

For dessert, I order bread pudding ($9), then watch in disbelief as a line cook behind the bar pulls out small bins of croissants and brioche. Is he really going to make the bread pudding from scratch to order?

A couple minutes later, my dessert (pictured below) is pulled from the 600-degree wood oven and topped with a honey/vanilla sauce and ice cream. It’s delicious.

Caffe Boa BistroFor all its laudable attributes, Boa Bistro still is a work in progress. Inside, the bare walls await decoration. Outside, construction hasn’t begun on a front patio.

Also, it should be pointed out the service at Boa Bistro isn’t speedy. Part of this is staff’s inexperience since Boa Bistro has been open just four days. But part of it is simply Curry’s Slow Food mantra.

So when a couple seated next to me walks out in a huff when their crème brulee doesn’t arrive in less than five minutes, I can only shake my head.

Mesa diners obviously don’t have much experience with a restaurant of Caffe Boa’s caliber.

Caffe Boa Bistro
Where: 2837 N. Power Road, Mesa (northeast corner of McDowell and Power roads)
Open: 11 a.m. daily. Dinner served until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Prices: Starters/salads $9-$15, pastas $14-$18, entrees $12-$28, desserts $9
Info: (480) 981-2000 or www.boabistro.com.

First Taste reviews are based on initial visits to new East Valley restaurants. Full reviews only are written after a restaurant has been open at least a couple of months.

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9 Responses to First Taste: Caffe Boa Bistro in Mesa

  1. John says:

    Great Review Jess… I stopped in on their opening night and am proud to say I was their first official guest. I sat at the bar and had the Meatball Brushetta along with a glass of the Malbec… both were excellent! And I agree with your shaking of the head for that poor couple that coulnd’t wait for their creme brulee… Mesa residents may not be used to having to wait for their (fast)food… but I’ve been waiting years for food this good in my neighborhood.

    Thank you Jay and Chef Payton,

    Welcome to the Neighborhood…

  2. Jeanette says:

    We stopped in for a glass of wine on Saturday late afternoon. Work in progress is right. The glaring sun through the front window required us to keep our sunglasses on and get very hot. Difficult to carry on a conversation with the super friendly Payton Curry as he squinted into the blazing sunshine. I’m sure they will get this resolved quickly with some shades and maybe window tinting.

    We were disappointed to find that they did not have a happy hour, though we hope they will start one soon. The wine by the glass prices (reds start at $7.00 and escalate to $9/glass and up very quickly are a bit high for this neck of the woods, I think. And bottles are simply 4X the per glass price, not really encouraging us to get an entire bottle. That said, the aforementioned Malbec from Croatia was one of the better Malbec’s I’ve had in a long time – a relative bargain at $7.50 per glass.

    I wondered about the logic of Boa moving in right next door to D’Vine – which seems to me nearly a duplicate of the same type of menu, wine bar and atmosphere. (Though the live music in D’Vine is too loud for conversation in such a small space.) I hope they both can survive in our restaurant starved neighborhood

  3. FB says:

    I applaud for the trying to do what others have done in the past in Mesa. Unfortunately many diners in Mesa prefer fast food and chain restaurants.. this is probably far to expensive and sophisticated. There are definitely food people in Mesa, probably not enough to keep this place ope for more than a year. Though I hope I’m wrong on my generalization. Good luck guys!!

  4. Pat says:

    My wife and I dined at the new Cafe Boa in Mesa on New Years eve at 5:45 PM. Not enough space to tell whole story but here is a short version: ceaser salads were not as described on the menu; the polenta croutons and garlic in the dressing were completly missing along with the asiago crisp. The waitress said maybe it was brought to the table before they could be put on but never offered to get them. Next table did not get them either and sent theirs back. Wait staff including the manager said that the Osso Buco was a lamb shank. Waitress finally confirmed with chef that is was indeed veal. Were over charged on bill for the salads and Osso Buco. Were told prices were put in computer from their other “store”. Food was mediocre and overpriced.

  5. Steve says:

    I attempted to sample the restaurant’s menu last wednesday (which was actually the opening night). Our party arrived at the opening of the restaurant at 5PM, we did receive two appetizers but at an hour and forty five minutes we were never served our entrees and opted to leave. Its unfortunate that the restaurant opted not to have a no-charge rehursal service and it was woefully unprepared to open. The biggest problem was the lack of communication, as no one ever said, we are having problems in the kitchen so if you would like to wait, feel free, if not you can leave. Its unfortunate that the service and food are not yet ready for the public, hopefully this will change with time. Additionally management did not take charge here either and left us drinking without offering additional food for the inconvenience. This leaves a bad taste in anyone’s mouth and may signal the continuing poor service that is a key note of most easy valley restaurants that attempt fine dining or psuedo fine dinning in the area. EJ’s restaurant that just closed was a perfect example.

  6. Oscar says:

    I agree with many of these concerns and it seems it would have been in the best interest of Caffe Boa to hold off opening day. However, I will dine again in a month or so and hope that many of these concerns have been rectified. We are a fast food country, Mesans like many other communities deserve and enjoy fine establishments like I hope Caffe Boa will turnout to be.

  7. Nick says:

    My wife and I ate here on New Year’s as well with our little ones. I thought the food was great, as was the service- we had no issues at all. It’s definitely not a place you would bring kids, as there’s no kids menu, but our server and the chef were very gracious in preparing “kid friendly” versions of adult meals. There are so few places in the Valley that feature organic ingredients- it’s nice to have something so close- we’ll be back for sure- hopefully the kinks the others experienced are ironed out shortly.

  8. Bob says:

    We celebrated our 22nd anniversary with my children and parents. A party of 8. We were really looking forward to a great meal but unfortunately we were underwhelmed. The place has a great feel and it was almost full. We were seated promptly. The service was fine though we would have liked a little more explanation of the menu and our choices. We started out with 3 firsts, the Flatbread, the Fall Panzanella, and the Meatball Bruchetta. The Flatbread and the Panzanella were very good but the Bruchetta was not what was described on the menu. My wife does not like onions and no mention of onions appeared on the menu. However it came loaded with onions and although she ate around them it just wasn’t what she expected. For our entree 3 of us had the strip steak which was flavorful and cooked nice, but very small. It came with fries which were very average, no better than what you might expect from Chilis. Two of us had the Fried Chicken, myself included. Though it had a nice crispy skin it had no flavor at all and the meat was almost mushy. the two best dishes were the Voodoo Penne and the Linguini which were both very well done. Last was a burger which was, well, a burger. The highlight of the evening were the desserts. The Tiramisu was fantastic as was the Pecan Pie. The truffles were also very good. We spent $400+ which would have been just fine had everything been great but there were just too many issues to feel good about spending that kind of money. We will go back for lunch in a month or so to see how we like it.

  9. Erica Patris says:

    Farm to table? They purchase their bulk produce and goods at Restaurant Depot(its like a costco for restaurants), if China is considered locally grown, then there you go. This owner and staff have no chance of making it in Mesa, I am sorry to say, good luck with it but Mesa folks out there dont want overpriced food, whether its some big “chef’ didnt thischef payton already work at a restaurant that failed,called digestif? hes going for another round I am guessing..

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