David Bouley was formerly quite the star Chef of New York City. His current big success is the Japanese restaurant Brushstroke, which we have not yet tried. A few years ago we had Thanksgiving dinner in his old location and it was definitely in our top 10 list of memorable meals. So why not go again?! We blindly made a rezzie about a month ago with no price or menu set. We received it 2 days prior to Thanksgiving. And there were a few changes made which were pointed out when we reviewed the menu. They added three exorbitant supplemental options to the prix fixe; a foie gras course, a cheese course and of course truffles shaved on whatever you’d like for a price.
To begin with the decor, we must divulge that Bouley very nearly recreated the interior of the former location on West Broadway. The entry is still adorned with rows of fresh apples, which create a welcoming scent. The size of the entry is quadrupled and now includes a coat room.
There is now a rather large seating area/cocktail lounge for relaxation while waiting for your table. The main dining room recreates the huge arched ceilings of the former location, but attention was paid here to not overcrowding the space. I have rarely seen a restaurant with the tables so nicely separated. The walls were painted a lavender shade and the arched ceilings were white.
The former ‘red room’ of the old location did not go away. It is now the downstairs dining room, where you will also find the wine cellar and some truly elegant restrooms.
The decor is decidedly traditional French bordering on overboard gauche. Certainly not my style, but it makes a statement. Of note there are four gigantic oil paintings of the French wine country framed with padded velvet frames. When I say gigantic, I mean 7′ or larger and the velvet frames were about 1′ thick and could be used as headrests above the banquettes.
We decided to taste the entire menu except for the entrees. We both had the turkey. Otherwise, there were two choices so we chose opposites. Here’s the rundown by dish, as each deserves attention. Steve went with the more light options and I did a more savory mix.
Amuse Bouche – acorn squash soup with pine nuts encased in a flaky sugar shell that melted in your mouth
Cape Cod Day Boat Lobster, Jumbo Artichokes, Papaya, Mango and a White Truffle Dressing – this dish was served cold and was very refreshing with the fruit, but had a richness from the white truffles and lobster
Organic Connecticut Farm Egg, 24 Month Comté Cloud, Organic Carrot Powder, Aged Parmesan Twist – truth be told this was one of the best dishes of the meal. The egg was ever so slightly poached and sat in a bed of aged gruyere de comté. It was dusted with dehydrated carrot powder, and served with parmesan twisted in a similar rice casing that came with the amuse bouche. Wow.
Nantucket Bay Scallops and Chatham Sea Scallops, Curly Cuttlefish, Ocean Herbal Broth – The two types of scallops were a nice touch. The Nantucket were creatively cut before sautéing and the smaller sea scallops flanked them on the sides. All were on a bed of cuttlefish and a green herbal broth which seemed to be cilantro-based. The presentation and flavors were phenomenal. This was another standout on the menu.
Organic Pennsylvania Young Turkey , Homemade Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Black Trumpets, Toasted Fava Beans, Red Wine Poached Cape Cod Cranberries – We think the turkey was cooked using the sous vide method based on the smooth texture and juiciness of the turkey. Also, no skin was included since browning is not an end result of this process. All of this is supposition, of course. FYI, sous vide is a french method in which the meat is vacuum sealed in a bag and slow cooked on relatively low temperature water for an extended period to slow cook the meat and preserve the juices. The turkey was rather huge steak-like slices of breast and topped with one rectangular accent piece of dark meat. It was served on a bed of sweet potato gnocchi that was so incredible it was difficult to even identify it as pasta. Additionally, the most divine potato puree was also served on the side.
Roasted Fig Soup, Rose Ice Cream and Creamless Roasted Bulgur Ice Cream – this was a palette cleansing pre-dessert course
Hot Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé, White Coffee Ice Cream and Chocolate Sorbet – a divine soufflé. This is really a lost art. We’ve had only one soufflé in recent years and it sucked. This is how it is done.
Nova Scotia Big Eye Toro Tuna with a Forager’s Treasure of Wild Mushrooms, Sweet Garlic, Special Spices – This was the biggest disappointment of the evening. Who cooks Toro tuna? I was rather shocked to receive almost WELL DONE tuna. Some pieces had a hint of pink but TASTED FISHY. Something went awry here. Bummer.
Porcini Flan, Alaskan Dungeness Crab, Black Truffle Dashi – this is a rather famous dish of Bouley. I would say the mushroom flan is amazing. The crab/black truffle sauce gave the dish an Asian twist. It was almost the consistency of sweet and sour soup. Sorry to say again that this was not a favorite.
Wild Washington State Salmon, Lightly Warm Smoked to Order with Lemon Verbena Tea, Tangerine, Mandarin and Clementine Dressing – By this time Steve was prepared to trade courses with me if I got another dud. But this one was outstanding. The smoke flavor of the salmon and the doneness were perfect. The citrus/tea dressing complimented the smokiness.
Golden Pineapple Soufflé with a Pistachio Melting Core, 10 Exotic Flavor Sorbet – NOW THIS IS A SOUFFLE! I would venture to say this one blew the chocolate one out of the water just because of the uniqueness of the flavors, the pistachio center and a citrusy sorbet that really popped the dish. I also must mention the perfection of the egg white top layer of the soufflé itself and the freeze dried, sugar coated cilantro garnish was pretty great as well!
We are glad we chose to go back to Bouley for a special occasion meal. To be clear, this IS a special occasion, fine dining experience. It is for anniversaries, birthdays, parents, holidays and celebrations. It is rough on the wallet. We opted not to do the wine pairing because of the price, but we wound up racking it up with our drink selections anyway. I am a big fan of using AMEX points to get Open Table $100 gift cards and using them to supplement such special occasions.
There was a little feature on Bouley in the New York Times on Thanksgiving Day. The link below also provides his long history of restaurants in NYC.
163 Duane Street – Tribeca