Café Boulud, Palm Beach

March 23, 2010

We have been to several of celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in New York and enjoyed them in various degrees. He also has restaurants in Beijing, London and Las Vegas. On March 12, 2010, Rob and Janet joined Linda and me for dinner at his Café Boulud in the Brazilian Court Hotel in the heart of Palm Beach, Florida.

We were seated at a table in the middle of the dining room. The clientele was well-dressed and younger than what you might expect in Palm Beach. They seemed to be having a good time. Janet, Linda and I started with glasses of Gosset Champagne. We ordered a bottle of 2005 Roar “Rosella’s Vineyard” (Santa Lucia Highlands) Pinot Noir, which was very good with strong Pinot Noir characteristics.

The menu follows the same formula as the Café Boulud in New York with four columns of different approaches to cuisine: Tradition, classic and country cooking; La Saison, the rhythm of the seasons; Le Plus Simple, simply prepared; Le Voyage, cuisines du monde.  There was also an insert with three specials of the evening. One can pick and choose as one wishes. The pricing is à la carte, but there is also a tasting menu.

Janet’s first course was
Crispy Octopus “Basquaise
shaved baby fennel, grilled scallions
Meyer lemon confit, smoked paprika remoulade

The chunks of octopus had been perfectly grilled; they were sweet and tender. There was just the right amount of lemon.

Rob started with
Risotto Primavera
young Spring vegetables, pea shoots
Red Cow Parmigiano Reggiano, saffron emulsion

The fresh spring pea shoots were an excellent addition to this well-cooked risotto. The foam was trendy, but did not add much.

Linda started with the
Sautéed Veal Sweetbreads
sunchokes, winter radishes
meyer lemon jus and swank farm cress

She thought that the sweetbreads were excellent and the combination well conceived.

My first course was
Seared Cleanseas Hiramasa
edamame purée, swank baby pac choi
crispy aromatic salad, miso vinaigrette

The searing of the
 hiramasa, or yellowtail kingfish from southern Australia, was not evident so the dish was like a sashimi except that there were a lot of raw, crispy vegetables which went well with it.

Janet’s main course was
Bluenose Sea Bass
steamed with Thai aromatics,
classic green papaya salad, jasmine rice

The sea bass had been steamed in the banana leaf in which it was presented; it was moist and flavorful. The sharp, tangy julienned green papaya and vegetables and the aromatic jasmine rice complemented it.

Rob’s main course was
Seared Sea Scallops
celery root purée, warm citrus vinaigrette

The scallops were high-quality, with no metallic taste. He was suprised how good the celery root purée was.

Linda and my main course was a special of the evening
Trio of Palmetto pork from Avon Park, Florida
roasted loin, crispy fresh bacon, house cured ham
sweet potato gratin, Swank Farms kale
green apple jus

The pork had a lovely flavor. There seemed to be a chunk of pork belly rather than the crisp bacon. The little sweet potatoes were nice and the kale added a good regional touch.

Janet’s dessert was
Ile Flottante
praline rouge
crème anglaise

The airy lightness of the eggwhite wedge was complemented by the sharp, crisp bite of the pistachio. The eggyolk custard was nice, but unusually sparse for a floating island.

Rob had
Panna Cotta
crème fraiche, mandarin orange
Meyer lemon granité

He liked the distinctive good tastes of the various layers.

Linda had the
Vanilla Crème Brûlée
burnt sugar crust

She said it was a good example of what a crème brûlée should be.

My dessert was the
White Chocolate Coconut “Haupia”
lime dacqoise, Malibu rum gelée z piña colada sorbet

These tropical flavors all went well together; they were not too sweet except for the little white wafer. With this I had a glass of 2005 Oremus ‘Late Harvest’ Tokaji which was luscious.

Finally a basket of fresh warm  madeleines were put on the table.

This is a signature offering of Boulud’s upscale restaurants. It was the only extra. There had been no amuse-bouche or pre-dessert. Mignardises were offered on the dessert menu for $12.

We enjoyed this excellent meal and the evening. The noise level was good, dignified, until music from the bar started to filter in shortly before our departure. The service was friendly and fast. Few tables were refilled after the early diners left on this Friday evening in high-season. The dining room had been full, but was less than half full when we left about 9:30. Café Boulud is a welcome addition to a generally bleak dining scene in and around Palm Beach.

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