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Cafe Boulud


Felonius
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My brothers housemate got into a shouting match with Daniel himself after being asked to

move at  8 after a 6:00 reservation.   I didn't go back to Daniels for years after getting a

rotten table at lunch and no help moving.

When I finally went back, I had one of the best meals ever.  My wife, a vegetarian, was treated superbly.  This time they were very nice when I requested a table change from an ok table

to a good one.  I'll definitely go back to Daniel's.

The day before I went to Cafe Bouloud and had a definitely disappointing meal.  2 great

appetizers, one good entree, one weak entree, and lousy desert.  Seeing the other posts,

perhaps the problem was that  we ordered seafood.  Service attitude was only so-so.

At those prices, I want great all the way through.  I won't go back to the Cafe for quite a while.

beachfan

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I've yet to find any restaurant, no matter the number of stars or world wide recognition, where I could not find a horror story from someone. I can personally relate food and service errors of seemingly unforgivable magnitude at several of NYC's four star restaurants. Such events usually delay my return visit, but if I were to let them make a permanent impact I'd soon limit myself to very few restaurants, which is probably more than I can afford to visit with any regularity anyway.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 9 months later...

I'm a long time fan of Cafe Boulud, but have curtailed my visits recently as the menu hasn't changed in some time (is Andrew Carmellini on holiday perhaps?). I got the CB craving the other night and had to stop by for dinner. In short - WOW! While I believe that CB is one of the leading NYC restaurants in terms of consistency, I don't expect it to give me the sheer pleasure of a place like Bouley when the stars are aligned there (which is not as often as I would like, given two rather disappointing visits to Bouley this Spring).

Every once in a while, however, Cafe Boulud creeps up and knocks me over. This recent dinner was one of those moments, and one of the best meals I've had in a long time. My date had a sweet carrot soup with tangerines and shrimp served chilled. It was as perfect for a hot summer night as it was original. Excellent. I had gnocchi with a tomato sauce and goat cheese, and though simple in concept, the execution was out of this world. The lightest, most ethereal gnocchi I've ever had. It reminded me of a similar dish had a year or so ago at CB, gnocchi with shaved white truffles, that ranks up there with the best dishes I've ever tasted. I could have eaten ten more plates of that pasta.

Both my date and I had the daily special of roasted salmon with summer vegetables. This came beautifully presented - two oval "filets" of salmon perfectly cooked, a julienne of summer vegetables and peeled red and yellow cherry tomatoes in between, and sauced with what seemed to be a saffron/coral foam. It was plated on a rectangular glass plate, something I had not seen at CB before. The flavor, presentation and execution couldn't have been more elegant. The flavors were subtle and in perfect balance. The vegetables and sauce supported the salmon, with the tomatoes giving a nice contrasting acidity to the buttery fish.

A peach tart for dessert was wonderfully tangy and sweet at the same time, with a counterpoint in color and flavor provided by a delicious pistachio ice cream. Again, deceptively simple in concept but executed at a level that is a rare find.

This to me is French food at it's best, complexity and harmony with just enough originality to surprise the senses - without resorting to the type of grandstanding often found in high end restaurants.

The meal was made even more perfect by a bottle of Peter Michael "L'Apres Midi" Sauvignon Blanc - the best wine of this varietal I have ever tasted and one of the more exciting wines I've had in the past several years (and I've had quite a few!). The balance of CB's food permitted true harmony with the wine. Being a wine lover, I am often frustrated by menus offering overly spiced, sweet or acidic dishes that stand well on their own but are difficult to pair with wine.

Now I remember why I've returned to Cafe Boulud more often than any top NYC restaurant. If I ever hit it big, I'm signing up for the daily CB meal plan like so many aging millionaires and blue haired heiresses on the upper East side.

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I've had some stupendous meals at Cafe Boulud, and my best meals there have been better than my best meals at Daniel.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There's a nice discussion of the wine list on the Boulud site, though the actual list isn't there (does anybody besides Veritas do this? Does Veritas even do it anymore?):

http://www.danielnyc.com/cafe/cbwine.html

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There are links to a number of wine lists on the Certain Restaurants' Wine Lists thread.

More on topic, I've long felt that if I had to eat at one restaurant for the rest of my life, Cafe Boulud would be a good choice. Then again, maybe I've been lucky in feeling that the menu has always felt relatively fresh and interesting.

[Fixed to make more interesting.]

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My impression is that even when it seems as if the menu has gone for a long time without major changes, there are day to day minor changes that probably keep it relatively fresh and interesting. When I'm pressed for time, the short answer to a question about what the food is like at Cafe Boulud, is "delicious." The cooking is very up to date and there's no shortage of creativity or finesse, but the food is usually satisfying in an old fashioned way. I actually haven't been there in a while and I'm looking forward to my next meal there.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I'm looking forward to my next meal there.

:laugh:

Me too. And it occurred to me I've not previously eaten there in the summer. I don't suppose, if I go in August, they'll be serving huge slabs of warm saucisse en brioche. But maybe I'll be lucky. :smile:

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Steven - I'm not sure if my meals at Cafe Boulud have been better than those had at Daniel, but I can say unequivocally that I have found them more enjoyable overall. Maybe this has to do with Bux's comment that the food at CB is simply "delicious" or satisfying in a basic way that meals at Daniel or other top restaurants often aren't for me. For example, I have had many intriguing food combinations at the Tasting Room, but I have never found the food satisfying on a basic level (i.e. wanting to order 5 more plates of something it was so tasty).

Cabrales - I wouldn't say there are any bargains on the wine list at CB. It is quite expensive, with a markup similar to that at Daniel, Jean-Georges, etc. The good news is that the sommelier, Olivier Flosse, is very knowledgeable and will usually do a superb job of food and wine pairing if asked. He also seeks out and procures some hard to find gems (especially from Burgundy) that one is unlikely to find anywhere else. For example I have been trying to buy more of the Peter Michael "L'Apres Midi" for 6 months now, both at retail and at auction, and have only come up with 3 bottles. Unfortunately I just drank the last bottle at Cafe Boulud. Others are from Burgundian producers that might only ship 3 or 4 cases of a given wine to the US each year. Some other treasures had at CB in the past include Meursaults and a lovely Volnay by Arnaud Ente, and Gevrey-Chambertins by Denis Mortet. If you don’t mind digging a bit deeper into the wallet, I would suggest you try a bottle of the Peter Michael Chardonnay “Cuvee Indigene” – one of the finest Chardonnays ever produced in the U.S., and in my opinion a rival to many Montrachets at a lower (although still very expensive) price. If that wine doesn’t knock your socks off, I don’t know what will! Olivier also opens one premium bottle from the cellar each night to be served by the glass. The other night I had a glass of a rare white Chateauneuf-du-Pape. These selections are usually interesting, but are also quite expensive. There are also some good choices in half bottles if you’re dining alone, including a nice Nuits-St.-Georges and a Morey-St.-Denis. If you visit CB, I suggest you take advantage of Olivier’s knowledge and get him to walk you through selections from regions that you prefer.

As for tasting menus at CB, I’ve only had one at a special wine tasting dinner. It was the best meal I’ve had at CB and one of the best meals I’ve ever had in NYC period. I’ve been meaning to arrange a tasting menu in advance, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. If this option interests you, I suggest you call ahead and schedule for a weeknight if possible. Advance notice will ensure Andrew’s presence in the kitchen, and a weeknight will avoid the weekend rush that can throw even the best kitchens slightly off their game.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Talking of being knocked out by Cafe Boulud, I was knocked out last night by ravioli of wild mushrooms, with summer truffles and summer truffle sauce. I don't order pasta too often in restaurants, and have a conservative habit of choosing meat and fish ahead of vegetables, even for starters. But this was outstanding - deep, clear flavors. My Beloved, who is not stupid about these things, stole half of it and fobbed me off with the remainders of her okay country pate.

I was just picking myself up, when I was knocked out a second time by tender rare veal medallions - more like torchons - garnished with a series of lovely suprises - some crunchy sauerkraut, a little cake of what I think was fennell-flavored polenta, some smoky pieces of tomato, and a remarkable tender/crunchy lattice of zucchini slices. Everything working together.

Then they clobbered me with an odd thing they called almohadillo - sort of panache, if you like, of fresh peach flavored with cilantro of all things.

Terrific, and with plenty of wine it was around $120 a head before tip. Think of some of the ordinary meals you might have paid $90 for. Book me in again.

(There were some other vaguely familiar faces about the place who may care to comment further...)

Edit: Blimey, that was pineapple, not peach. Just shows how puzzled you can get when it's scented with cilantro:

"ALMOHADILLA

Cilantro Flan Wrapped

in Caramelized Pineapple

Cactus Pear Sorbet"

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I was among the participants in last night's dinner -- a gathering to spend time with UK-based eGulleteer Blind Lemon Higgins (who I hope wouldn't mind my mention of his attendance). :laugh: :laugh:

The meal was good-plus, having been rendered more appealing by a smoked and roasted chicken dish that was tender and flavorful (of chicken). I should note that I have not historically been particularly apprecative of Boulud's style of cuisine; however, I did appreciate my meal at Cafe Boulud last night. The meal:

(1) Amuses. Two amuses were each served on a white ceramic Chinese-style soup spoon, like at Troisgros in Roanne and at Radius in Boston. They were (1) shrimp section with cucumber, and (2) asparagus with a bit of almond and a creamy background sauce. The third amuse was a little metal fork holding serrano ham enveloping a limited amount of fig puree. The forks were served on a long cucumber for visual appeal. An appropriate start to the meal. The table shared a bottle of Cuvee Daniel champagne (around $65), following by a bottle each of white and red, respectively, before the dessert wine.

(2) Marinated Heirloom Tomato Salad, Ricotta Salata, Focaccia, Shallot Dressing ($18). The included tomatoes were confirmed by a dining room team member to have been furnished by Tim Stark. I thought the preparation was simpler (not in a negative way) than most heirloom renditions I have had lately (and I have been ordering them whereever I have seen them and sometimes have visited a restaurant in part for them). An average-plus dish, with thin amounts of ricotta nicely utilized -- really a sampling of tomatoes.

(3) Smoked and Roasted Amish Chicken, Roasted New Potatoes, Marinated Pole Beans, Tomato Emulsion ($30). This dish was very good (using NY standards to be clear). The chicken slices were moist and tender and imbued with an appropriate amount of smokiness. An appealing emulsion sauce that had a good amount of stock and a limited utilization (in a good way) of tomatoes to enhance the stock. :laugh: A tasty, non-heavy dish.

(4) Churros: Duo of Dipping Sauces (Chocolate-Cinammon and Chocolate-Coffee) with Orange Ice Cream ($12; table shared a 500 ml bottle of Coteaux du Layon Selection de Grains nobles, P Delesvaux 1997, $89). The current temporary theme at Cafe Boulud is Mexican cuisine, and my dessert of four short-ish churros was in keeping with that. While warm,the churros did not taste as though they had been deep-fried just the previous instant, the way that longer churros sticks at Chicama had (served with Cafe Con Leche dipping sauce and chocolate sauce). The orange ice cream was alright, although the Saffron Scented Honey ice cream in BLH's dessert of Geogria Peach Soup with that ice cream and fresh nectarine was better.

Overall, I would return to Cafe Boulud. The service was generally good. One aspect of the restaurant's hospitality went considerably beyond that. Executive chef Andrew Carmellini was most welcoming, and furnished a wonderful kitchen tour lasting quite a while to the dining party. It was too bad Wilfrid and Beloved had to return home to take care of their baby around the time the tour was conducted. :wink:

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  • 3 weeks later...

You guys posted while I wasn't looking. Somehow I missed this thread and have been feeling guilty about not writing up a meal I thought was quite exceptional. It was interesting to read the reports. In a way I find it easy to overlook commenting on Cafe Boulud as I have found it so incredibly dependable. I expect it to deliver not only a flawless meal, but one that I also find thrilling to eat. I never sense an attempt to be trendy or an overt creativity that lapses into oddness, yet there are always a few things that gently push the envelope just enough to be eye openers without losing that declicious quality that I mentioned as central to the food that comes out of the kitchen.

The ravioli was just that sort of dish for me that evening. I usually don't order pasta in a French restaurant as a starter either, but I spoke with Andrew (the chef) on the phone earlier and although I neglected to ask what he recommended, he said he was excited by the specials he was working on. Of the specials offered, the wild mushroom, summer truffle ravioli had the most appeal. As I recall there was also some corn in the dish and tomatoes that were cooked, but not to the point of being a sauce. It was very much not a pasta in sauce. It resembled a ravioli apierto I had in Italy in that although the ravioli were stuffed and closed, the filling inside was of loose pieces as was the sauce outside. Unlike a traditional Italian pasta dish, this one seemed to offer a series of tastes, all good, that varied as I devoured the dish and made it more exciting to eat.

For a main course I had the duck breast which was attractively presented in rare slices that sort of leaned on one another to provide a little mound or structure. An onion custard with baked fig on top were balanced, in composition and flavor, with some braised bitter greens on the other side of the duck. No surprise here. It was super and satisfying.

I also had the Cilantro Flan Wrapped in Caramelized Pineapple Cactus Pear Sorbet. I found all of the flavors surprisingly and pleasingly subtle. I can only hope everyone else's dessert was as well served by the wine. I was particularly impressed with the wrapping of the flan with soft and supple slices of pineapple. Remy the dessert chef, opened the restaurant with Daniel's staff, but stayed behind when Andrew took over the helm and the rest of the chef level pretty much went on to the new Daniel.

A few notes on the other wines. We had a Savennieres with the appetizers. It was $49.00. I think there are a few on the list. With main courses we had a JL Chave St. Joseph 'Offerus' for $69.00. I forget the year on each and can't remember which producer was responsible for the Savennieres. There are a few on the list, as I recall.

This is not an inexpensive restaurant. Wilfrid gave a before tip cost of about $120 person, but at about $47 a head for a share of four bottles of wine, there's room to economize. On the other hand the food will also support much finer wines if you care to go that route. I agree with Wilfrid that it's money well spent.

I found the room a bit noisy, but trying to converse across a round table for six, makes it far more noticeable than it might be at a table for two or four. Service is excellent and very professional, but tables are quite close together and this necessitates an occasional reach across the table. In conjunction with the quality of the food and the general professionalism, I don't find that objectionable, but I mention it for those who expect haute luxury here. To a great extent it's a convivial neighborhood restaurant, but the neighborhood is NY's high rent district.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Glad to hear everyone had a good experience at CB recently. Perhaps some day I will be able to join a few other E-gullet types for dinner there.

I have been back several times since my first post on this thread and each visit has provided superb food. I went for a tasting menu with another frequent poster on this board, but I won't go into the details on the food as much of it was similar to items already mentioned. One item of special note was a smoked corn ravioli that was out of this world. On a subsequent lunch visit I was able to talk the kitchen into doing this again, though it is not on the current menu. I'm hoping it may return again soon.

Andre Carmellini really has the pasta thing down in my opinion. That smoked corn ravioli was one of the better dishes I've ever had, and I can still remember several other great pasta moments at Cafe Boulud months or even years from the past.

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This thread got me thinking about Cafe Boulud food yet again, and I had to go back for a quick lunchtime meal.

The menu has been redone for September, with a variety of new items. A new version of the smoked corn ravioli (previously a special) has been added to the regular menu, now incorporating chanterelle mushrooms and a creamier sauce in place of the light foam. Still fantastic, though I think I preferred the version I had during previous visits. This recipe is a bit heavier and more autumnal in feel with the mushrooms in place of summer vegetables.

A country pate appetizer with cherries, cherry sauce (with port wine reduction or something similar) and a lentil concoction on the side was excellent if not exactly revolutionary in concept. I think there were also pistachios in the pate.

The $20.02 summer lunch special has now been changed to $28 for two courses and I think it was $36 for three. The ravioli portion appeared to be the same as what was served a la carte at dinner. The prix fix menu gives three choices for app, three for entree, and two for dessert. Overall a real value in my opinion given the quality of the food.

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  • 3 months later...

Another top-notch dinner at Cafe Boulud last night. Excellent company, and I don't take notes, so the following is a little impressionistic.

They started us with a series tiny amuses served on small spoons. I loved a mixture of macerated beet and dried fruits.

The meal was bookended by two meat dishes straight out of the great french bistro tradition I love, treated with Andrew Carmellini's customary restraint and delicacy. An oxtail terrine with black truffles and a black truffle cream; and a meltingly tender boeuf a la mode, truffles again, and a rich, lip-sticking broth. A generous slice of rare foie gras was hiding under the beef.

Between the beefs, we found a selection of dishes which, I felt, highlighted the kitchen's ability to depart from French cuisine and create lighter, Asian-accented food.

I liked the Nantucket bay scallops, their sweetness contrasted with the bitterness of endive leaves and blood orange.

A small squash soup looked and tasted like an upscale curry sauce - coriander (fresh and ground, I suspect), was in there along with other spices, and it was garnished with some small apple slices.

Cod on an orange "paella" sauce gave off powerful aromas. For me, it was the most muted dish. I liked the idea of jamon de serrano garnish, but I wish it hadn't been crisped so that it splintered on contact with a fork. Sweet pepper garnish.

We couldn't face cheese after the generous meat course, but enjoyed a pre-dessert (which is lost to my memory), and then a rich chocolate and coffee "pudding" with a cinnamon creme brulee.

An inexpensive Pouilly Fume to start, although the soup and fish dishes might have paired well with a Riesling or even a Gewurtztraminer. Then a 1997 Cote Rotie from B. Levet, if memory serves; a bigger wine than expected - "bacon and mushrooms," I said, which was a compliment.

Relentlessly good restaurant.

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