One last meal at Boboko

Our food contributor savors her last meal at Boboko before it closed. (Photo by Sarah Golibart Gorman)

On the morning of Chef Marina Muan’s last day at Boboko, she made a stop at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market. This was not unusual. Muan has long been a champion of the Market, sourcing locally when she can to prepare flavorful Indonesian dishes in Boboko’s kitchen.

She grabbed a coffee from Crazy Fox Roasting Co. and swung by the Market booth, where I work one of many part time jobs, to say hello. We’re friendly acquaintances, so it was just a casual catch-up, no formal interview. 

“I’m excited, but I’m sad,” Muan admitted. Earlier that week, she announced on social media that Boboko would close after eight years. Muan took over the restaurant in 2022 from its founders, Hotiman Ridwan and Mark Mitchell, who started it in 2016.

“Our owner, Marina, is taking a well-deserved break from the restaurant grind,” the post read. “Although this is a bittersweet ending to our story, it’s the start of a restful new chapter for her.”

As evidence of the grind, Muan shared, “I stayed up until midnight last night making beef rendang.” They had run out the day before, and she wanted to ensure it was perfect for her final day.

After my market shift, I headed across the street for one last meal. If you never had the pleasure of dining at Boboko, picture a cozy, narrow room adorned with wooden masks and woven baskets, a nod to the restaurant’s name, which means “rice basket.”

The place was buzzing, a constant flow of people picking up takeout, savoring one last bite of their favorites. I took a seat at the last booth, with a perfect view of the kitchen.

As I waited for my meal (beef rendang of course), I watched Muan and her team juggle dine-in and a seemingly endless line of takeout orders. Flames flashed as they fried the beloved street noodles or exactly 18 pieces of tofu, I heard Muan request, bound for some delicious dish.  

When the server offered the dessert menu to the diners beside me, they consulted each other briefly, “I mean, it’s our last chance,” before ordering mango ginger Nutella spring rolls.

The rendang arrived, perfectly tender, alongside a pyramid of white rice and a gingery sauté of carrots, green beans, and cauliflower, plus a spoonful of vibrant red hot sauce. It’s everyone’s favorite, the server confirmed. Paul Somers from The Golden Pony had told me earlier that week how the rendang nearly brought him to tears when he tasted it for the first time. Slow-cooked in coconut milk with a mystery spice blend, rendang is a comfort food akin to pot roast. Warming and not too heavy, it’s reminiscent of a meal lovingly cooked by someone who wants to see you nourished and well cared for. 

Boboko’s menu credits the dish to Indonesia, but it’s also found on menus in Malaysia, which is Muan’s home country. She once told me she wanted to explore more Malaysian dishes, a challenge many Southeast Asian chefs face in introducing diners to lesser-known flavors from their cultures.

As for what’s next for Muan? That’s still under wraps. As I said my goodbyes, she promised, “I’ll see you more often at the Market.” 

And with a playful grin, she added, “I’ll tell you more about where I’ll be next.”

Sarah Golibart Gorman, a.k.a. The Friendly City Foodie, provides her insights about the local food and restaurant scene for The Citizen.

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