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Cafe Boulud


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

I don't understand this. Sweetness typically dulls receptivity to other flavours. An amuse should excite the palate instead of console and cushion it. Please explain, please explain, please explain, ple...

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Oh, really? This makes much much more sense. I wonder if the beets had been pickled.

I knew you could explain. You're smart.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I beg to differ that it is a consistently excellent performer, Wilfrid. We had a disappointing meal there on Saturday night. The saga follows (warning: probably way too long).

We arrived on time for our 8:30 reservation. Originally we had reserved for four, but family from out of town had to cancel so we called the restaurant the day before and told them we would only be two. Upon speaking to the hostess, she said, "There are four of you, right?" We told her that we had cancelled, and she appeared momentarily concerned - the Maitre d', however, quickly told us that it would be no problem and pointed us to the bar a couple of feet away.

Bartender was very friendly. We asked for two glasses of a Cote du Rhone or similar if had any. He steered us to two glasses of a syrah, Cornas - 1997 . This was great, bright but with enough complexity to be interesting. We complimented him on the choice. Waited at the very cramped bar area for about 25 minutes, while some other two tops were seated. Mildly annoying, but we were enjoying the wine and the bartender came over and poured us two more glasses on the house without even asking, just because he saw us waiting for a while. Very nice move, and made us happy.

A table opened up right in front of the bar, closest to the door with people kind of crowding over it and around it, clearly not a great table. The maitre d' offered it to another couple who declined it and we also declined, figuring that we'd been waiting this long, a few more minutes for a better table would be OK. A third couple was seated and the maitre d' brought them a bottle of champagne on the house (they eemed to be regulars and it was unclear if the champagne was for the unfortunate table or for another reason, if the former, another very nice service move). Another table opened up near the bar about 10 minutes later and was again offered to the other couple who declined it - we decided to take this one as it was not at the crowded end.

We finally sat down (around 9:10), ordered wome water, and the first person by was a captain ( the "trufflemaster") with a gorgeous, fist-sized white truffle. He described some of the truffle dishes available and held it to us for a deep, heavenly inhale. It smelled so wonderful, that I was sold. He described three dishes available with truffle shavings, a risotto, a gnocchi, and third called "uva" which he described as large ravioli containing poached egg that oozed all over the plate when it was cut into. He then said that main courses were $110, and appetizers $85 leaving the impression that all were available in either size. The "uva" sounded perfect.

Our server came by next and began to launch into the same spiel about the truffles, but stopped when we told her that the other guy had already come by and showed us the truffle. "She said, did he describe all of the dishes for you?" And we assured her that he had. We looked a the menu, so many good choices as always. I was tempted by a traditional salade de frisse avec lardons for a starter, but noticed that it came with poached egg and I was already pretty set on having the uva for a main, so was set to order order a lobster bisque to start instead. I found that my wife was to order a squash soup and a roast chicken dish and turned to the wine list.

Amuse came, a spoon with smoked salmon and a tiny potato chip topped by caviar. This were dropped off by a runner with no description or ceremony. We flagged someone down to describe them (salmon and caviar was obvious enough, I suppose). The amuse did not work, the potato chip was not crisp and thus provided no texture contrast. Caviar was barely there. This tasted like a piece of smoked salmon - fine in itself, but not an expression of any kind of skill.

Did not see any Bordeaux that I recognized for what we were willing to spend (around $100), so when we were approached by someone I thought to be the sommelier, I asked for some advice. He recommended a wine for $79 (can't recall the producer "Meynau" or "Meynard" perhaps? 1986). Turns out he was not the sommelier but our capitain.

Server came to collect our orders. we ordered, and I said I'd like the "uva" specal, but wanted to make sure I understood what it was called and was comprised of. So I asked her if this was the ravioli egg dish and what is was called again. She had to repeat herself several times before I could hear her, but assured me that's what it was. I had forgotten how noisy that restaurant is, we had trouble hearing each other and could almost never hear the staff on the first try. She left, and that was the last time we spoke to her until the bill.

Our soups arrived literally about a minute after the server left and before the wine arrived. (I am ordinarily not one to order soup as a starter, but I had been tempted by a corn chowder on my last visit to CB that had blown me away.) We discussed whether we should send the soup back until the wine arrived, but decided to overlook this and go ahead. The soups were both delicious (good plus on the Cabrales scale), chunks of lobster meat (tail and claw) in the traditional rich brown soup, and puree of squash with sliced apple to garnish.

Wine came and it was not so great, a flat one-note wonder. Hoped it would improve with some air over time, but it never really developed into anything special. Again, should have said something, but did not.

Mains came, and the uva was placed in front of me and was indeed a ravioli, and nothing more, about 4 inches across; the captain immediately shaved truffles on top, very aromatic, but papery, feathery thin slices to the point that they even curled up to a degree. Paying more attention to the truffle being shaved, it did not occur to me that the dish was frightfully paltry until the captain left. The dish was not as advertised, and was an oily (white truffle oil?) concoction filled with spinach, ricotta, and possibly some poached egg whites, but certainly not the runny, egg-tasting experience I had been thinking about. In fact, there was no real egg flavor to it at all and no evidence of yolk. My wife's chicken dish was superb, flavorful moist chicken with tiny brussels sprouts and other sides - lovely.

No one came to check on us or was receptive to hailing for some time (acknowledged, I should have gotten up again and said something), so I ate what was in front of me and was disappointed. Our server was chatting with people at the bar, and we exchanged a look where I nodded that we needed some attention. She pretended that she didn't see (you'll have to take my word for this, but this was clear) and continued her conversation. Finally, I caught the attention of the captain when I was about almost finished the tiny dish and told him that I found it contrary to my expectations and rather small. He informed me with some disdain that the uva was available as an appetizer only and that I was therefore served an appetizer portion. I was not happy with this and made that clear. We recognized that what had happened was the original "trufflemaster" never mentioned portion sizes in giving his description leaving the impression that all were available as appetizer or main, and then we relied on his description in cutting off the server while she was repeating him. There is no such excuse for his failure to mention spinach or ricotta or for describing at as an egg dish that "runs all over the plate" when cut into. The out-to-lunch captain offered a perfunctory "I'm very sorry for the confusion" and then comped us a pear soup to go with the New Orleans potato cake we ordered for dessert. Ho hum. (soup was just OK, the potato cake was good plus) I also ordered coffee which never made an appearance, and this point I was ready to go and so did not complain. Our server returned with a dour look and dropped the bill on our table without a word, she picked with the same grim silence when I put a card in it.

I should have asked to see the manager, but am naturally averse to making a scene and loathe more than anything being put in a position where I have to complain, and did not. I recognize, therefore, that I did not give management the proper opportunity to deal with my issues or give me satisfaction.

All in all a very disappointing experience in what had been a favorite restaurant for me. The food was generally very good, as usual, and it is even possible that I may have liked the uva more had I not been expecting something totally different, but probably not. Overall, the service was a tremendous let-down, despite some bright spots (bartender); however, even admitting that I shoulder some of the blame for not asserting myself more strongly or in a more timely way, I expect a lot more for this price point. Lesson learned that I will just have to be louder and more assertive about making sure I get it. Sadly, it will also be some time before I am tempted to return and sample Chef Carmellini's excellent fare.

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Damian,

I'm sorry to hear about your experience as well. However, they comped you and your wife 2 glasses of wine for the wait and a dessert for the miscommunication about the special.

This probably deserves another thread, but what else would you have liked them to do?

Mike

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Mike,

I agree that there were certain good aspects to the service, especially the bartender, as I have acknowledged, making the wait much more bearable. Being comped on a dessert was a decent gesture, but did not make up for my disappointment at being served an appetizer for a main course that was utterly different than described and cost $85 in itself (mostly as a premium for the truffles, granted, but when you spend that for a truffle experience, you want it to be worthy) and the other glum aspects to the service (ignoring us, forgetting coffee, recommending a mediocre wine). I am not sure what the manager would have done had I done the correct thing and complained to him, but it probably would have been a lot better in the sense that he probably would have ensured that I was happy or happier. Again, I shoulder some of the blame for my dissatisfaction for not complaining to him.

The main point is that I would gladly trade the two glasses of wine and the free dessert for a satisfying experience the first time around with attentive and intelligent service.

My post was not intended as a rant, and I hope it did not come across that way. Nonetheless, I still feel CB let us down.

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Damian,

I'm in agreement with you...correct service and a satisfying experience beats "quantity" anyday.

But I'm still curious as to what you think the manager would have been able to do to make you happier (that hadn't already been done). Should they have taken the $85 charge for the Uva off of your bill? Comped you the wine since it wasn't up to snuff?

I'm not trying to be sarcastic or obnoxious. I'm just curious as to what the restaurant could have done to make the experience "right".

I posted a similar topic a while back on one of the wine boards that I frequent. What happens when you get a bottle that is not damaged (corked, cooked, oxidized, etc.) but just not to your liking (didn't like the cassis or cherry profile, would have been happier with the garrigue or plummy profile). I don't recall the response anymore.

FWIW, I agree that it is sometimes helpful to speak with management when you feel that it will help. Who knows what will happen. They may suggest that you come back the next night on them. But then again they may apologize for any misunderstanding and that's it.

Take care,

Mike

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Of course, you're right, Mike, the manager may have done nothing. I don't take your posts as sarcastic or obnoxious, just legitmately curious.

As to your inquiry of what exact value I would expect in terms of compensation for the deficient service, it is hard to say. I'm not trying to be coy here. Obviously, we would have been happy if he had taken the uva off the bill or the wine or comped the whole meal, or invited us back on the house. Do I feel that this what we deserved? Well, probably not, much of the food was good. How about going half price on the uva? How about half on the wine? I don't really know what would be reasonable "value" - which is part of the reason I am loath to complain and get into discussions like that; one inevitably feels like kind of a whiny beggar (at least I do).

In general, my feeling is that you get what you get with wine unless it is off or otherwise undrinkable. Doesn't prevent me from being disappointed that a captain (not a sommelier as I would have, and did, expect him to be) recommended a wine that wasn't all that good for its price (not a high-priced wine to be sure).

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Damian, the uva dish sounded absolutely delicious as you first described it. Yet there was already a tinge of doom to the yolky image I was savouring. Good story-telling.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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  • 5 months later...

A small foyer led us to the low-ceilinged main room with leather chairs, banquettes along the wall, cozy tables set closely, dark wood, mirrors supported by decorative metal screws, contemporary art works echoing the theme of neutral brown and pastel-green color tones and a bar along the wall stressing the casualness of the setting. The room wasn’t littered with a dainty potpourri of feminine debris, but rather provided a sense of a solid, respectable, unpretentious neighborhood bistro, comfortable in an unostentatious manner, for the nattily suited gentlemen and family members of what seemed to be the more “blue collar” Fifth Avenue inhabitants and occasional gastronomic tourists.

I generally enjoy early dinners before that uncertain look appears in the eyes of the service staff, overwhelmed by the immensity and intensity of their duties, and their excessive optimism melts with the increasing numbers of filled tables. We arrived at 6:30 p.m. sharp, while the restaurant was only half full, and were shown to a table near the path to the kitchen just across from the bar and not far from the captain‘s station. It wasn’t the best table in the house, but I liked the fact that we were positioned conveniently to more easily attract the attention of the service staff should any questions arise, and we settled down with no objections.

The five-part gastronomic “dance suites” on the menu consisted of the “French classic and country cooking” exposition, “the rhythm of the seasons” part, “le potager” - inspired by the farmers‘ market, “le voyage” – world cuisine with Thai, Vietnamese and New Orleans-inspired dishes, and the specials of the day including stellar sautéed soft shell crabs. The $95 five-course chef‘s tasting sounded attractive, but, since it provided only one possible dish for each course, we calculated that between the two of us we’d be able to sample seven or eight courses for the same price by building our own tasting from the menu. When my consort gently indicated that I of course could be in charge of ordering as usual, but he’d rather not have three main courses instead of four appetizers, and that he was not sacrificing his Duet of Veal for anything else, I realized that my plan to sample the famous Le Saumon a L’Oseille (roasted salmon with sorrel sauce), compliments of Troisgros’ recipe, was shattered as I wasn’t about to sacrifice a highly recommended roasted duck, which proved to be an excellent dish indeed.

An amuse of rose-shaped creamy goat cheese with a slice of minuscule bright-red cherry Heirloom tomato and a miniature potato chip presented in a Chinese porcelain spoon represented the start of our three-and-a-half hour dinner.

Marinated Japanese Hamachi -- ruby grapefruit, Jicama, ginger-spice dressing (La Saison menu.)

Five overlapping, thin slices of the hamachi, crowned with daikon, roofed the mixture of several green soy beans (edamame), a piece of sweetish marinated tomato and diced, firm, crunchy and slightly sweet Jicama that was reminiscent of a juicy and crisp Asian pear. A stroke of bright-green sesame-seed purée on one side of the hamachi edifice and a piece of fresh, deep-red flesh of bloody orange on the other completed the composition. The yellowtail had a silken, buttery texture and a subtle, nutty flavor, which contrasted with the more direct but not intrusive taste of the cumin crust girdling each piece. The combination of spices and Jicama sweetness along with the very light acidity of the pickled daikon and orange offset by the earthy and nutty sesame sauce was very nice. I enjoyed this appetizer.

Big Eye Tuna Tartare -- radish, sesame, cucumber (La Saison menu).

This was a simple dish with clear, subtle and well-balanced flavors. The buttery and luscious claret-colored tuna saturated in a sesame oil was diced into ¼-inch pieces, mingled with a smooth, mashed version of the tuna meat and presented as a small burger sprinkled with black sesame seeds and topped with very lightly pungent hair-thin filaments of radish and cucumber marinated in rice-wine vinaigrette (?). It was a well-executed, but not an exciting, dish.

La Paté de Canard et Foie Gras -- country style paté with foie gras and smoked duck, dried fig chutney, purslane-frisée salad (La Tradition menu).

A thick, rectangular piece of the rich, heavy, hearty, coarsely ground and chunky paté with pieces of pistachios and fat was a bit dry. The fig chutney provided sweetness, and the frisée salad drizzled with vinegar provided acidity. I would’ve probably enjoyed this rustic dish more had it been served with pickled beets or cornichons and mustard.

Sautéed Soft Shell Crab -- round carrots, fresh and pickled ramps, sauce Grenobloise (Specials of the day menu).

To me, a soft shell crab, quickly sautéed in a vinegary or lemony brown butter and caper sauce, displays such an unguarded simplicity that I expect nothing more from this dish but to be just a walk down memory lane. I was pleasantly surprised, and this turned out to be a fantastic appetizer.

Two medium-size creatures, shiny from the sauce Grenobloise generously poured over them, were cozily positioned atop one another on a bed of baby spinach and pickled ramps and were surrounded by tiny, about 1 1/2" cute round carrots adding a vibrant, deep-orange color to the dish. The tiny flakes of flat parsley in the sauce, several capers and moist croutons completed the composition. The perfectly sautéed crabs, crunchy on the outside, despite being saturated with the sauce, and soft and tender on the inside, released moisture along with a natural heavenly sweetness on my first bite. The butter in the sauce mixed with lemon and vinegar turned into a thick emulsion, had an acidic vinaigrette tang, and in combination with the gently sweet crabmeat, complemented by the full sweetness of the carrots, was not overbearing but rather created a perfectly balanced harmony of flavors. Capers and the texture of the soft croutons nicely offset the oiliness. No doubt, the round carrots added that extra to the dish that made it special.

Being disappointed with the pictures we took at Daniel, we were equipped with the digital camera and were determined to succeed this time. Imagine how surprised I was when one of the managers approached our table, after we took the first picture of our appetizer, and in a polite yet dry and firm manner informed us that we were not allowed to take pictures in the restaurant, and that in fact the policy applied to all three Boulud restaurants. Considering that the main dining room was relatively small, the request seemed reasonable and wouldn’t have provoked any additional objections on our part had the manager not stated that this rule was indisputable in all the restaurants. I couldn’t help but mention that at Daniel we were not only permitted but also encouraged to take pictures, which brought sincere surprise to the face of the manager who firmly stated that it couldn’t have possibly been the case. The conversation was conducted very politely, however, and raised my curiosity rather than provoked an unpleasant feeling which could’ve affected our evening. Nonetheless, we were presented with two wonderful dishes compliments of the chef to compensate for our possible inconvenience, for which we were tremendously grateful, as these dishes comprised one of the best experiences of our meal.

Ohio Asparagus, Bacon, Spring Garlic Sauce

Truly inspirational. Several sprigs of baby asparagus with meaty pulp were carefully wrapped in smoky and crisp bacon, set on top of the thick, off-white garlic sauce and were encircled by several rounds of rich, deep-brown meat reduction. In my view, the secret of asparagus success is to cook it just to the stage of tender crispness, and serve while the spears are still bright green. However, the version presented to us was contrary to my previous preference, yet proved to be excellent. The asparagus, with perfectly compact and pointed tips, was cooked far beyond crispiness, but the result was such that the asparagus, having absorbed the concentrated intensity of flavors of bacon, garlic and the meat reduction and being further enhanced by the provided accompanying sauces, tasted just superb. It would be hard to imagine this dish to be rendered any other way.

Steamed Black Bass in Lime-Coconut-Ginger Broth was our second gift. A white, juicy, delicate, light, tender, and airy filet of steamed bass with a very mild flavor and a beautiful grayish, shiny skin was bathed in a delightful off-white broth, releasing a wave of fragrant aroma that reminded me of a Thai coconut chicken soup with a subtle combination of soothing coconut milk, piquant ginger root and tangy citrus but without the spicy peppers that typify Thai cuisine. It was the sourness of the broth that complemented the fish so fabulously.

Duet of Veal – braised shank, Swiss chard, basil, roasted tenderloin, carrots, orange (La Saison menu).

I didn’t find this dish interesting. Three rare and moist medallions of the thick and tender veal were positioned next to a slightly dry braised shank resting on top of the chard leaves with a piece of marinated tomato, onions, carrots, and several slices of caramelized(?) orange rind off to one side. Though the chard leaves were enhanced by butter and garlic, I didn’t think this accompaniment was enough to enliven the meat, which didn’t have sufficient flavor to stand on its own, in my view.

Roasted Duck “New Orleans” – dirty rice, braised celery, pecan-thyme glaze

This dish didn’t exhibit any sophistication, representing instead a dignified decadence with Cajun overtones, but it was certainly excellent. Five tender, medium-rare rectangular pieces of warm (not hot) Pekin duck on a bed of dirty rice enriched with roasted green pepper bits and ground giblets were surrounded by a concentrated and intense meat reduction. The rice had absorbed the flavor of the meat, had a little white-pepper sharpness and was moist and perfectly cooked so that each grain was separate yet soft. The roasted pepper added freshness to the rice, and chopped pecans brought a wonderful crunch and earthy tone. The only sweetness in this dish was the natural sweetness of the bones and meats from which the meat reduction was prepared. The dish was decorated with fried parsley. Very nice, indeed.

We drank a bottle of 2000 Coudoulet De Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône.

At the time we finished our main courses, Charles, a General Manager, stopped by to make sure that we felt well pampered, and we were presented with another compliment of the house, which was supposed to serve as intermediate refreshment before our desserts.

Lime Soup with Mango Sorbet

This was a wonderful dessert. The soup containing small, accurately carved cubes of mango and pear (?) had a mango sorbet, crowned with a caramel tuille, floating on the surface and was served in a small soup cup with two handles and the name of the restaurant imprinted inside. The flavor intensity progressed from the barely sweet pear toward the more intense mango cubes and achieved its culmination with the full and intensely flavored mango sorbet offset by the gently acidic lime soup. You could taste the nuances of each fruit even when taken together.

The Rhubarb-Raspberry Tart with Ginger Crème Brulée and Rhubarb Coulis and the Mango, Pineapple and Pear sorbets we ordered were quite average. The real treat, however, was a basket of Madeleines. There is no better way to evaluate food then when your body is no longer craves calories. At the time the Madeleines arrived, the thought of consuming anything else certainly provoked little excitement, and we simply asked whether we could take them with us. How delightfully grateful we were, however, when our waiter suggested that he prepare us a fresh basket to take home. Now I felt obliged to try at least one on our table. I picked up a Madeleine almost mechanically, but as soon as the warm, soft, light and cushiony texture of this wonderful treat melted in my mouth, I couldn’t stop until I saw the bottom of the dish. I thought they were even better than at Daniel.

We drank Muscat de St. Jean de Minervois, Roussillon with our desserts.

The service was a little erratic, but the way they handled our little photo incident was admirable. All dishes were well presented, but along with excellent dishes, we had good but not very interesting ones as well. Our impression was that some of Café Boulud’s dishes were more adventurous than what one could find on Daniel’s menu, and that “Le Voyage” and the specials of the day are the menus to which one should pay closest attention. Though Café Boulud follows the Daniel’s leitmotif of clear, distinguishable flavors, it seems that chef Carmellini also experiments with more exotic flavor and texture combinations.

Edited by lxt (log)
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Things to Take to Daniel's Restaurants -- Part Two

1. A notepad -- elicits exceptional service at Daniel (prior thread).

2. A camera -- brings extra dishes from the kitchen.

Good trick that.

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Lxt, thanks for such a thorough review. Cafe Boulud is my favorite NYC restaurant, and I have to say I agree with your reviews on the dishes you tried (I eat at CB way too often, as I have had all of them!). For some reason, I have never found the dessert at CB as exciting as the other courses, the notable exception being their excellent dessert "soups". I often skip dessert and go right to that otherwordly basket of Madeleines.

For those who have yet to try CB, a few thoughts... Andrew Carmellini does a superb job with soups and pastas, and I would strongly recommend sampling one of each from the menu. The current entree of rabbit with tiny pastas is one of the better dishes I've had. The "earthier" selections (i.e. takes on French country food) are also usually among the most satisfying in my opinion. I like the understated elegance that Andrew brings to them, letting the fresh ingredients and flavors speak for themselves, instead of the more "dressed to impress" approach at Daniel.

In general, the food at CB is not nearly as daring as that at other high end NYC establishments such as Jean Georges. Some may find it a bit dull. I find it hits the spot every time in a wonderful comfort food sort of way.

Also, I would recommend spending some time talking to Olivier Flosse, the sommelier. He is very knowledgeable, and has seldom steered me wrong (and I am VERY opinionated when it comes to wine). If you're feeling bold at the end of the meal, ask him to bring you his special after-dinner drink concoction - a blend of Belle de Brillet brandy and armagnac over ice that is worth a try. A good complement for that basket of Madeleines.

I ate at CB on Saturday and did the tasting menu. I was pleased to find the food uniformly excellent on such a busy night. I usually avoid high end NYC restaurants on weekends, as the food often suffers under the strain of a packed house all night.

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I wonder if the objection to cameras was to flash photography or to cameras in general. Does anyone see where I'm going with this . . .

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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I wonder if the objection to cameras was to flash photography or to cameras in general. Does anyone see where I'm going with this . . .

Interestingly, I inquired whether using the camera without the flash would be possible, but the answer was negative. I tried to understand the rationale behind such a strict rule, but frankly failed, nor was I able to get a straight answer from the service staff. Instead, we were offered a tour of the kitchen where we would’ve been allowed to take pictures, but I respectfully declined despite my husband’s furious attacks on my leg under the table. I tend to feel intimidated by the kitchen and often think that visiting it may ruin the magic of my dining experience. Sadly, we were offered and rejected taking a kitchen tour at Union Pacific as well. Perhaps next time.

Mogsob, rule number three: ask more questions than the service staff can answer, and you’ll get an invitation to visit the kitchen.

Pixelchef, thank you very much.

Awbrig, as soon as I get my camera back from my daughter... :smile:

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Felonious,

One of the best desserts with rhubarb I’ve ever tried was several years ago at Union Square Café. Since that time, I became fond of the vegetable and found myself in search of rhubarb desserts. The rhubarb-raspberry dessert at Café Boulud was a little disappointing, though. A very thin layer of the rhubarb mixture ground to a smooth consistency was topped with the crème brulée and presented in a round pâte brisée shell. The shell was too thick, in my opinion, and the rhubarb layer was almost undetectable under the strong ginger taste of the crème brulée. I didn’t think that crème brulée's texture went well with the crust either. However, the soup dessert was truly wonderful.

Did you have a chance to try roasted salmon with the sorrel sauce? I’d be interested to hear a comparison of the version served by Café Boulud and the original from Troisgros.

I didn’t pay much attention to the vegetable menu (Le Potager), which contained mostly pasta (handmade “penne verde” with morel mushrooms, ramps and Parmesan) and ravioli (sweet pea ravioli with spring pea ragout, romaine, aged pecorino). Would you suggest ordering these items or other items where pasta is presented as a side dish from a different menu?

I didn’t find the approach at Daniel to be dressed to impress. I thought that each element of each dish at Daniel would’ve fit and complemented each other perfectly even if the dish wasn’t presented so elaborately on the plate. For instance, I thought that the hamachi appetizer at Daniel was more interesting than at Café Boulud. The smoothness of the fennel/avocado custard stressed the buttery texture of hamachi wonderfully, and the fennel with its citrus overtone added that special tangy tang without overburdening the dish with sweetness. It was a much more delicate combination of flavors than the one suggested by chef Carmellini. I am not sure whether the two can be compared though other than to say that I preferred Daniel’s version.

Had we not been presented with the “house gifts” and relied only on our own selections, my impression of Café Boulud’s cuisine would’ve been that it was well-executed comfort food that provided reassurance, but little excitement. However, the asparagus and black bass dishes persuaded me otherwise. I am very curious to see what the chef’s tasting is and how he would match the dishes.

Edited by lxt (log)
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We ate here at Cafe Boloud in NYC during Mrs. TJ and my's 'Lost Food Weekend' in NYC in November 2002. We were staying at the Stanhope Park Hyatt, just a few blocks north of Cafe Boloud, so it was a nice quick stroll (albeit in the chill of the rainy night) down there for our 8PM reservations.

The service was nice upon our arrival but we had to wait a few moments for our table to be readied. It was failrly busy for a Sunday evening, I would think. Our wait at the bar was very short and we were quickly shown to our table.

We noticed that the clientele here was decidedly older than say at Babbo or db Bistro Moderne. It also was a rather ritzy set, possibly due to the Upper East Side locale. It seemed more like a neighborhood place that those with the means would come to eat there as regularly as you'd eat at a local favorite (but decidedly cheaper) restaurant yourself. It was fun for people watching, but it was a bit off-putting. I am not sure, but the waitstaff must have become acustomed to their 'usual' clientele, and we were not it.

Slowly, though, as the meal transpired, the wait staff seemed to notice how much we were enjoying our meal (the Dining Diary was a dead giveaway I guess) and the wine ( 1998 Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir ), that their attention to us got better and better. Plus, the regulars started to slowly filter out. We ended up being one of the last few tables there that night, but oh look at me, I'm getting ahead of myself!

We did not have a tasting/chef's menu here, also instead opting for a sampling opf the regular menu. We opened with an amuse bouchee of Tuna Confit served on little dainty spoons. Yum! Along with this we sampled some of the breads, Mrs. TJ sampling the pumpkin seed bread while I sampled the sourdough (mm).

Mrs. TJ had a Frisee Salad that sat atop of warm chicken livers, bacon and a soft-poached quail egg. It was rather an unbelievably good flavor combination. Savory loveliness that was superb and unbelievable. It is amazing Mrs. TJ even alowed my two (small) bites of this. Incredible.

I opted for an Endive Salad that included endive, watercress, a bit of red leaf lettuce, walnuts, pears and stilton that was finished with a drizzle of balsamic. A classic combination that was very well prepared. The chunks of Stilton were divine with the wine (yes, I saved up a few bits of the cheese so I could indulge in that flavor combination after I'd finished my salad). Quite delicious.

For her second course, Mrs. TJ chose a Wild Mushroom Risotto that was, as expected, very, very filling. BUT it was incredibly good. So good that she finished this course, knowing how stuffing it was. My taste of it confirmed it.

I selected a Chicken Consumme. This had little chunks of delicate chicken, hen of the woods, chicken 'pate' and chicken 'tortellini' floating about in it. It was not overly salty. The consumme itself was delicious and all of the lovely things floating about were quite tasty. But the combination of more than one of the floaters along with some of the broth was sublime.

The 'main' course followed. I picked A Duck Breast entree that was sort of 'Duck Breast a la Orange. It was expertly prepared and just as I ordered it. It sat on a bed of kale with onions (and likely bacon fat) and root vegetables (parsnips>). This was seriously good. I even liked the kale, something I had horror stories over based on my parents preparations in the past) as it had a nice earthiness to it with some bite.

Mrs. TJ opted for something called Bouef a la Mode. It ended up being basically, uh, Pot Roast. It was good, but not what she (or I) expected. It was NOT over the top like the Duck Breast. BUT, after careful review of the plate and the accoutrements, well, the opinion changed. The accoutrements, sea salt, chiles, horseradish cream, cracked black peppercorn, mustard and other things, really made the dish. They were presented in a very decorative and festive way and they really allowed you to create and sample many flavor combinations. Nice.

For dessert, we agonized. At there were so many tempting offerings that we were having trouble selecting. At this point, the wait staff was feeding off our enjoyment, I think (well, probably when we got the main courses, actually). We asked about a few, asked which ones they liked and we were still stuck. We ended up making a few selections and then the waiter brought out not only both of our selections, but also a third one (!) the one we were having difficulty dropping. So, we ended up having a Chocolate Souffle with pistachio ice cream, a Carmelized Quince Napolean (hands down the best!) and a Chocolate Coffee Bomb. After these delectables and some pretty good coffee, they brought out some Citrus Madelines Petit Fours.

They should have wheelbarrowed us back to the hotel.

Seriously, we had some fun, got a recommendation for a sushi place the next time we're in town from the Maitre d. We were chatting with him after the head waiter guy discovered we'd 'settled' for Cafe Boloud when we'd really wanted to try 'Daniel' but didn't even try since we thought it'd be too hard. We now have an 'in' at the Daniel empire... Heh heh heh.

So, I would definitely go again, but, given the choice, I'd probably go to db Bistro Moderne before I'd go here. Better atmosphere.

So, if you go, ENJOY!

By the way, here is a link to the TNs.

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Thanks for the report, and I'm glad you had a good meal!

But what is "hen of the woods"? I don't think there are wild chickens in the U.S. The only place I know of that has wild chickens is Malaysia, and I remember them being like Malaysian village chickens, only about half the size.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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