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I don't know of any restaurant in NYC that is significantly better or more interesting than Bouley, although admittedly this is not saying a lot. Its certainly better than Blue Hill.

Agreed, no comparison, in my view. Bouley is miles better than Blue Hill and in a different league, I think. Based on one visit I'd not place Bouley at the top though. I prefer Nougatine room (a recent tasting menu there was, to me, more interesting than Bouley's) and I thought my food at Daniel (not the overall package there) was of a higher standard, consistency-wise than Bouley's.

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Thanks for all the responses. My brother ate lunch at Bouley Bakery a couple of times and pronounced it the best value he's ever experienced in any restaurant. I really do look forward to going there for lunch some time. Perhaps we could have some kind of get-together there in May, when I'll have more lunchtimes free.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been going to Bouley off and on over the years in his different

settings. I recently had lunch there and it was an incredible bargain for the quality of food offered. The 5 course tasting menu with the seafood melange as mentioned by others., included one of the best tasting scallops I have had. The veal tenderloin, with pinot noir sauce confiture of scallions served with

asparagus, wild mushrooms was delicious. The veal., organic from Summerfield farms, has exceptional flavor and most unusual for organic veal , it was extremely tender.. My friend's chicken

dish was not that interesting.Three slices of rather bland chicken. not as good as other chicken I have had at Bouley in the past. The halibut with beets and a bit of horseradish dressing, bouley's homage to Mother Russia was very good, not great. All in all a delicious meal,The, setting

was comfortable; decor pretty and inoffensive. . The lack of noise, due , perhaps to an

empty restaurant was an added plus. I don't think his desserts have

ever been as good as when Bill Yosses was the pastry chef there.

I haven't been there in the evening recently so I can't make the comp

arison, but I certainly agree with Yvonne, about it being in a different

category than Blue Hill , a higher one. I would defintely return for

lunch, I wouldn't have the house champagne again.

Edited by laura (log)
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I too very much enjoyed lunch at Bouley back in January. It was a fine value. The dish that really stands out was the mixed seafood appetizer so eloquently described above. The scallop was indeed particularly memorable as was the phyllo encrusted shrimp, however, I can't forget the crabmeat as well. This dish is certainly a "must-have" at Bouley IMO.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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  • 2 weeks later...

(Note: Bouley's menu pages were helpful in refreshing my memory, though the menu online is somewhat different from yesterday's.)

My brother and I went to Bouley yesterday afternoon. It was my brother's second trip, and my first. My brother's previous experience of Bouley's prix fixe lunch was one of the outstanding meals of his life, so his expectations were high.

The first demerit was something I noticed about the raisin bread: The golden raisins had sulfur dioxide on them and presumably were Sunkist. They should have used organic raisins. But that seemed a minor point at the time.

I thought the amuse bouche was terrific and my brother also liked it, though less than I. It was salmon in some kind of sour white sauce (perhaps milk-based - sour cream? I thought there might have been a touch of mayonnaise in it, but my brother doubts this) on finely julienned cucumber and various greens.

We decided to order the $45 tasting menu. Our first course was Phyllo Crusted Florida Shrimp, Baby Cape Cod Squid, Scuba Dived Sea Scallop and Sweet Maryland Crabmeat in an Ocean Herbal Broth, though only the one shrimp and scallop were readily apparent (perhaps the others were in really small pieces). That's no complaint, however, and the dish was nicely cooked. But there was a problem. My brother, who is more of a super-taster than I, found the shrimp unacceptably old-tasting (I was satisfied with it). He put that to the waiter, who returned to us with a report. He stated that he had worked for years at Bouley, and that it was the first time he had agreed with such an objection. He went into the kitchen, smelled that batch of shrimps and found them unacceptable. Some shrimps, he said, are just bad and that one was. The chef, he said, also agreed and was very upset. A replacement was offered, but declined, whereupon an extra dessert was offered and accepted.

We ordered different second courses. I got Atlantic Halibut Prepared in a Borscht Manner with Local Ruby Beets, and a Celery and Horseradish Dressing, a great dish. The halibut was perfectly fresh, the cubed beet pieces were wonderfully crunchy, and the combination of beets and horseradish was an excellent homage to chrein (spelling?). My brother got Maine Salmon with Snow Peas,Glazed Fennel and a Clementine Sauce. I found the fish somewhat fishier than the shrimp he had found unacceptable, but it was acceptable to him, anyway, and he was very pleased with the sauce (which I also liked).

Both of us followed up with Pennsylvania All Natural Chicken Roasted with 24 Hours Cooked Tomatoes, Mediterranean Olives and Basil Mashed Potatoes. Here, something totally unacceptable happened: Part of my brother's chicken was UNCOOKED! The waiter was shocked by this development. Again, he offered a replacement, but my brother declined, saying he had already tasted the dish. Actually, the dish itself wasn't very interesting to him, since it was made with white meat that hadn't been marinated. I thought the olives and tomatos (kind of a puree) were tasty, but I found the basil mashed potatoes too buttery. Overall, the dish was OK, but only with fully cooked chicken meat!

There followed a pre-dessert of Grapefruit Soup with Coconut Sorbet, a thin Coconut Cookie (I forget the technical name for this), and Passion Fruit. I thought this was great, though my brother wasn't as taken with it (he did like it).

Our main dessert was Hot Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé with Prune-Armagnac, Chocolate, Pistachio, and some other kinds of Ice Cream. The souffle' was a typical chocolate souffle'. What really made this dessert was some of the ice creams, especially the prune-armagnac. The chocolate ice cream was super-chocolatey, and I also thought the pistachio ice cream was the best I've had at least since gelato in Italy. There were a couple of types of ice cream that didn't have enough taste for us to determine what they were.

Another dessert, which we shared, had subtle custard over an apple pie-like layer of apples. That part was fine. But it came with a basil foam that we liked neither the consistency nor the taste of (too strong!). There were some apple chips, also.

Finally, some post-dessert extras came out: A chocolate-orange truffle that I loved but my brother thought not that special; a macaroon that we both agreed was too chewy; a good butter cookie; an indifferent shortbread cookie; if there was something else, I don't remember it.

My brother drank iced tea with the meal, and I had two cups of mint tea with desserts (good strong mint tea).

We were comped one meal for our troubles, and since our service had been entirely professional, we agreed that the tip should be based on what both meals would have cost.

Although Bouley is rated as one of the only four-star restaurants in town, we both agreed that this meal, at least, barely merited two stars.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Two stars! Pan and Grimes must be going soft together!

I think we need to change the thread title to Bad Friday Lunch at Bouley.

Thanks for the report, Pan. In my experience of a few dozen meals at Bouley's various incarnations, he serves four-star meals about half the time. The rest range from three to negative ten. Who was it who said "there are no four-star restaurants, only four-star meals"?

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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Pan

Sorry to hear of your Bouley disaster. :shock: It sure contrasts with the dinner I had there a few weeks ago with some other eGulleteers. I know from reading your prior posts that this was a splurge meal and a treat to yourself and it sucks when treats don't go as planned. I hope your next 4 star experience is worthy of the 4 star designation. I ate at JG on Monday night and I thought it was a 4 star experience, but it was the only time I have been to JG. Good luck!

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Of all the reviews i read about Bouley, only half of them are good.How come this restaurant is rated four stars? From what i know, restaurant critics will go twice or even three times before giving the "sacred" fourth star.Or am i completely wrong? Personnally, the meal i had there was probably the best one i had in New York but the decoration of the room is pretty arguiyable;there's a lamp on every table but the wires run all over the dining room.Doesn't what we all hear about make that last star questionnable or are we just talking food? :unsure:

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It sounds like your brother should be the one named Pan.

Keep two things in mind, Robert: (1) My brother's previous prix fixe lunch at Bouley, as I mentioned, was one of the greatest dining experiences of his life. (2) The waiter agreed that his shrimp was no good, and part of the chicken was obviously raw, a fact that no-one disputed. Now, if you can turn an experience like that into a rave review, I'm not sure what weight should be put on your opinions. :laugh:

Fat Guy:

Your remark made me laugh. I do think that two stars are merited because there were some great things about the meal. My brother and I speculate that the executive chef and some of the line chefs were probably on vacation on Good Friday (in fact, we compared our experience of one great meal and one very disappointing meal - caused by the absence of all the line chefs - at Michel Vignaud in Chablis last summer, which I posted about on the France board [too lazy to look for it at the moment :biggrin:). But if so, the restaurant should have closed for vacation!

Aaron:

The trip to Bouley was planned as my brother's treat, though I volunteered to pay the $20 difference between the $35 and $45 prix fixe menus. That proved not to be necessary when one of the meals was comped. So I have no monetary reasons to be upset; it's just disappointing that we went there on what must have been a very off day.

Guru:

I thought the decor was OK and it certainly didn't bother me, but I made no comment about it in my review because it was neither greatly noteworthy as spectacular nor in any way upsetting. I thought it was sedate, but my brother did note one odd thing about the room we were in (the darker room to the left on entering): The acoustics were such that we could hear every word spoken by the party in the far corner, if we concentrated on listening (which we didn't).

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Who was it who said "there are no four-star restaurants, only four-star meals"?

I don't know, FG. Who was it?

It sure as hell wasn't someone humble, that much is for certain. :laugh:

As I am not nearly as smart as you, perhaps you will be kind enough to explain this remark. How does lack of humility relate to the belief that it is unlikely that a four star experience can be delivered to every diner at a four star restaurant?

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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David Bouley is a genius in the kitchen, but he doesn't seem to have a great talent for building a strong, robust organization around himself. I think that is the fundamental reason his restaurant is inconsistent.

Part of the plan when the new Bouley replaced the bakery was to put him back in the kitchen, where his greatest strengths lie.

On a related note, does anyone know if he's managed to sell off the Mohawk building (his proto-restaurant/cooking school/boutique hotel/whatever else it was going to be)?

Edited by vengroff (log)

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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Re: Mohawk Building. Yes. It's been sold to an architecture firm (James Stewart Polshek, maybe? right now I can't quite remember.) That part of town, from Chambers Street on up to Worth, is really turning into an architect ghetto (not meant in a bad way at all).

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Too bad there were some problems with your meal Pan. I was there with my wife Lorna on Good Friday also, (sitting next to the wall on the way to the bathroom--nice bathroom, by the way, although there was a small hole in the canvas of the oil painting-- ). We each had the $45 prix. Unlike Pan I had a grand time. Food was quite good. My shrimp was nice. Good flavor, on the smallish size, but nice well cooked (which is hardly cooked at all) and full of flavor. I did not try the chicken but Lorna did. She loved it (I just asked her whether her Bouley chicken was fully cooked).

I thought the entire experience was very pleasant. The service (I had the lone female waiter) was impeccable. And, as others have stated, great value.

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Curiouser and curiouser. Now it sounds like there was a wide degree of inconsistency between lunches on the same day. What would account for that?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Last May I ate at Bouley for my college graduation dinner. Most of the meal was exceptional but my entree was awful, It was a buttermilk poached chicken. It tasted like hospital food, it could not have been blander. I didnt want to cause a scene, seeing as it was my graduation, but I did send it back and got a great entree, though it escapes me, and we recieved an extra dessert too. The service at Bouley was quite exceptional. Though the enviroment for me was a bit too much, I like more minimalistic decor, the ceilings were interesting though and I liked the green apples that lined the walls in the entranceway!

"Is there anything here that wasn't brutally slaughtered" Lisa Simpson at a BBQ

"I think that the veal might have died from lonliness"

Homer

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  • 3 weeks later...

I went to Bouley with my girlfriend for lunch this Friday (which ended like 3 hours ago) and was very pleased, if not consistently blown away.

We had the longer tasting menu.

First course:

Chef's Canape - Gravlax ("gravlox?" "grovlox?") with coconut yogurt and cucumber salad (I insisted there was some kind of foam in the waiter's description, but my girlfriend insisted that I was mistaken). I thought this was quite good -- weird, for sure, but very refreshing-tasting -- a good way to wake up the palatte or something. My girlfriend disagreed, finding it poor, and not finishing it. Even though I liked it, it was probably the least successful dish of the meal.

- served at the same time as -

Amuse (or something) - Tiny taco with avocado and corn and tomato. This was great -- I've had bad luck with great-restaurant amuses in the past (or, at least, they haven't been the tiny morsels of explosive flavor one would expect), but this one was superb. Sort of sweet-tasting from what I think was the corn shell, and the vegetables had strong tastes which contrasted and blended nicely.

Second course (appetizer) - I got some kind of yellow-fin tuna sashimi... The fish was extremely fresh, but the presentation wasn't particularly exceptional. In a town like New York, crawling with good Japanese restaurants and having at least a few on the caliber of Nobu (even though it's hip/crowded/overrated/etc.) and Yasuda, I sort of feel that having tuna sashimi (even really good tuna sashimi) with an "Asian-ish" sauce just isn't enough for a four-star restaurant. Yeah, it'd be mindblowing if Japanese food wasn't on every corner, but it is. Still, I thought this was a successful dish.

My girlfriend had "Phyllo Crusted Florida Shrimp, Baby Cape Cod Squid, Scuba Dived Sea Scallop and Sweet Maryland Crabmeat in an Ocean Herbal Broth." I don't eat shellfish (residual Jewishness), but I tried some of the broth and thought it was superb. She raved about the dish, for what that's worth (she's new to the world of great food, so the answer to "what's that worth?" may be "not much").

Third course (fish) - I had the "Atlantic Halibut Prepared in a Borscht Manner with Local Ruby Beets, and a Celery and Horseradish Dressing." A great dish. The highlight of the meal for me. The "local" beets were fresh, and I found the flavors to be exotic and homey and a perfect combination (though, for some, possibly an intuitive one (at least beets and horseradish seem like they'd commonly go together in some eastern-european country)). The halibut was well-cooked (not in the sense of doneness, but in the sense of, like, goodness), but it was really the dressing and the beets that made the dish special.

My girlfriend had some kind of salmon. She enjoyed it. Honestly, I don't remember how my forkful-sized share of it was.

Digression #1 - the bread - This is probably not a revelation to anyone, but Bouley's bread is superb. They start you off with two rolls, an apple one, and a "plain" one. (They probably had a more sophisticated name for the plain one, but whatever). The plain one is good, but I found the apple one to be extraordinary. The butter was merely ordinary, one of the only"little things" that I thought was not sufficient fussed-over. During your meal, the bread-passer-outer-guy comes out with a tray of slices of various breads -- I don't remember all the varieties, but my girlfriend got a slice of raisin bread with a licorice taste to it that was sophisticated and great, and I got a black olive (or was it green olive?) bread that was straightforward, flavorful, and great. Both of these sliced breads took greatly to butter, and were one of those great "four-star" touches.

Fourth course - meat -- I had the Roasted Organic Tenderloin of Veal Served "au Pot" style (or something close to that). It was really simple: veal, in its own juices, with some carrots and squash and shallots and other vegetables you cook with on a regular basis at home. It was also really superb: the best veal I've eaten in a long time -- fork tender, fatty, cooked perfectly, flavorful, so good I (discreetly, hopefully) mopped up some of the juices with what remained of my "plain" roll.

My girlfriend had some kind of chicken with chanterelle mushrooms and possibly buttermilk. It was chicken. Not terribly good, but decidedly not bad.

Digression #2 - Atmosphere I loved the atmosphere at Bouley. The art is inoffensive and non-eye-catching; the room (we sat in the "white" room) was warm, ideally-lit, and spacious-feeling; and the waiter pulled the menus from a little end-table with two drawers -- a brilliant detail. The door is everything it's cracked up to be, and the apples in the entryway are another aspect that doubtlessly helps to elevate Bouley above the pantheon of the merely excellent restaurants.

Fifth course - Intermezzo (or something) Possibly pineapple soup with what was definitely coconut ice-cream or sorbet or yogurt. Extremely well-done. The soup was pleasantly bitter and sweet, and it came with this great solid-but-about-a-milimeter-thick-and-translucent-and-melts-in-your-mouth sugar cookie-type thing that was heinously sweet and matched well with the tart soup. The coconut ice cream (or whatever it was) was well-made.

-served with-

Cappucino-like thing with banana yogurt, coconut foam, and espresso mousse, and possibly something else - served in a tall glass and layered like a cappucino. Really cute and great-tasting dessert. We both enjoyed this "fun" (and off-menu) dessert immensely.

Digression #3 - the service The service at Bouley was, for the most part, extremely attentive. We ate fairly quickly (we got through the first four courses in about 55 minutes), and the service did not miss a beat. At 1:45, however (we'd arrived at 1), the restaurant began to get more crowded, and the service got noticibly sketchier: the meat course arrived about 2 seconds after the fish course was picked up (we weren't eating that fast), and the dessert course arrived about 15 minutes after the "intermezzo+free cute dessert" course and about 13 minutes after my coffee (which was good, but still suffered from not being served in Europe), an annoying and somewhat strikingly unprofessional (or at least "un-four-star") move. What I can say about Bouley is that the whole staff raelly made us feel "welcome" in a way that was just great -- it blatantly made me happier.

Sixth Course - Dessert I told my girlfriend to order the Hot Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé with Prune-Armagnac, Maple and Vanilla Ice Creams, Chocolate Sorbet, but she didn't listen, and ordered the other option. I gladly got the souffle which was, well, a well-made souffle. It was great (any decent souffle will be), but other than the ludicrous number of ice creams it was served with, undistinctive. Still, I enjoyed it; it was definitely better than 350-or-so of Manhattan's "molten chocolate cakes."

My girlfriend ended up ordering “Apple Orchard Prize” Slowly Baked Apples with Caramel and Phyllo Crunch Home Made Cinnamon Ice Cream, which was just not terribly good. It wasn't bad (I defy you to name a non-"weird" dessert at a decent restaurant that's bad), but it was highly pedestrian and indistinctive. It came with the same coconut ice cream as the fruit soup, which was just silly (the chef must know that they're both on the tasting menu).

Post-sixth course - The petit fours were petit fours.

-served with-

Check: The check was $135 including tax and tip and without alcohol.

Conclusion - Even though the food was somewhat inconsistent, if one orders well, one can have one of Manhattan's best lunches at Bouley. Even at $67 per-person it's an absolute bargain for what really is more of a "dinner" experience. The space is great, the service highly professional but very far from stuffy, and the food generally great and occasionally excellent. While the food was not really better than some of the (deservedly) three-star restaurants I'd eaten in (Veritas comes to mind first), the experience greatly surpassed them. Do you guys think that Bouley deserves four stars?

Postscript - Newbie question Should I have started a new thread for this?

Edited by kurl (log)
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Do you guys think that Bouley deserves four stars?

I obviously don't, based on my lunch!

Postscript - Newbie question Should I have started a new thread for this?

You could have, but the counterpoint with my report and others' comments is interesting.

While I was reading your report, I had an increasing sensation of having been cheated, until I got to your remarks about the ice creams that came with your chocolate souffle'. Realizing that you hadn't raved about the prune-armagnac ice cream caused me to understand that there are matters of taste that we simply differ in. Unless they decreased the amount of armagnac in the ice cream since I was there. Our waiter told us that the kitchen prefers to use more armagnac but shies away because customers had complained about that!!!! :wacko:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 1 month later...

Was there ever any closure on this story?

Glenn's link above no longer works, by the way, and the Observer database is down at the moment. So if somebody finds the article, or related ones, let's post some new links here.

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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It never received closure as far as I could tell.

David Bouley ran a series of ads for months on WNYC which would make you think they fed all of the rescuers / workers / emergency people, and pretty much buried the story.

Thanks for digging up this thread, lots of old names in it.

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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It seems the article stresses so much that Bouley doesn't pay his bills on time or to his staff.

Most in the biz know that big restos don't pay their bills on time because they can't. Most sales are with plastic which delays actual payment to the restaurant for awhile, limiting cash flow. Suppliers keep supplying to brag that Bouley buys from them. Same thing with Bolud and Jean Georges.

Employees at these places are also paid minimally, barely above minimum wage. They accept it as part of the honor of working there. If they put in enough time there they can work just about anywhere they want after that. They tolerate working 12 hours and getting compensated for 8. They tolerate not getting breaks or other luxuries afforded in a normal working environment. Things will not change until they put their clogs down and walk out.

Truth is, if things went totally on the up and up labor wise, no one would be able to afford to eat there when actual cost is reflected in the menu prices.

My $.02

Lisa

Lisa K

Lavender Sky

"No one wants black olives, sliced 2 years ago, on a sandwich, you savages!" - Jim Norton, referring to the Subway chain.

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I thought credit card transactions were instantaneous at this point.

What is the actual salary of a line cook at, for example, Daniel? I bet it's significantly more than minimum wage.

Servers of course are paid small salaries, but they make their income from tips.

Interesting report here from December 2001, in NY Mag:

"Bouley's contract with the Red Cross to serve up to 35,000 meals per day was canceled on November 19, just two weeks after the New York Observer reported that fellow restaurateurs were outraged by the profits Bouley was allegedly making on the deal. A Red Cross rep insisted that the decision to scale back the relief effort was made simply because there were fewer people to feed."

http://www.newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/news/p...lligencer/5471/

Observer search engine still down; can't seem to find anything on Google; will try again tomorrow.

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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