March 10, 2015
We had not been back to Bouley after its reopening in 2008 until we returned for dinner with Blair and Karyn on February 9, 2015. Bouley, named after its chef and owner, David Bouley, has had its ups, downs, closures and moves since its 1987 opening when it was soon considered by some to be New York’s finest restaurant. It is now ranked number two in NYC (after Le Bernardin) for food by Zagat, but only has one Michelin star, unusual for what is supposed to be a franco-centric guide.
After being seated in the lushly decorated dining room, we ordered a bottle of 2010 Benoît Lahaye Brut Nature Champagne. This Champagne without sugar dosage was crisp and a bit toasty. Very nice. The menu offers an option of a Prix Fixe of three courses, with many choices in each course, for $125. It also offers a Tasting Menu of six courses at $185. Unusually for a tasting menu, there are three choices for each course. (A cheese course can be added at a supplement.) With the help of the sommelier we ordered a bottle of 2013 Cuilleron “La Petite Côte” Condrieu and a bottle of 2009 Serafin Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin. Both were very enjoyable and typical of their type.
The first amuse-gueule was a piece of salmon with Tasmanian mustard; the second was kudzu starch on a thin wafer topped with black truffle.
These were nice, but one had to be careful not to take too much mustard for the mild salmon. Blair said that his was completely covered in mustard and making it impossible to not have a mustard dominated bite. The second amuse was luscious.
Linda and I had
Forager’s Treasure of Wild Mushrooms
Sweet Garlic, Special Spices, Grilled Toro, Black Truffle Dressing.
The various mushrooms had good earthy flavors, enhanced by the truffles and other flavorings. The toro tuna pieces were an unusual combination with the mushrooms, but seemed to work well.
At this point the bread cart with many varieties was wheeled up.
We received thin slices of our selections. (I chose hazelnut/pistachio.) House-made creamy butter was provided.
We then received a small extra course of smoked sturgeon and salmon roe with Chinese mustard green.
The smoking was evident and good. The server said there was herring in the dish, but we could not detect it.
Linda and Blair had
Golden Princess Crab, Alaska Dungeness Crab, Black Truffle Dashi.
There was abundant sweet crab meat underneath a savory dash. Truffle flavor complemented the dish and wasn’t overbearing. Very good.
Hawaiian Spot Prawns in an Egg-less Ravioli
Pencil Malibu green asparagus, black truffle dressing.
The server announced this as Scottish langoustine, which I think had been substituted and probably went better than shrimp with the earthy truffle flavor.
For the next course all four of us chose
Chatham Day Boat Lobster
Wood grilled, razor clams, tomato cardamom coulis, homemade fusilli pasta.
The server announced the pasta to be chestnut gnocchi, which they were. The sauce was just right with some lobster stock and enough tomato to give some needed acidity, but not too much.
Grass Fed Tartare of Buffalo
crispy baby fingerling.
The tartare was well executed. The fact it was buffalo was not evident given the preparation and other flavors involved. None the less it was an excellent tartare. Underneath was a bed of truffle shavings.
Linda and I had
Organic Colorado Rack of Lamb
Biodynamic California eggplant, Swiss chard, Gewürtztraminer glazed Alsacian Munster.
This dish was surprising in being almost entirely meat, which just a few garnishing touches. But the various cuts of lamb were perfectly cooked and delicious.
Since we had not ordered the chocolate option, one was placed in the middle of the table to share.
Hot Valrhona Chocolate Frivolous
This was what we would call in France a moelleux de chocolat with a mousse au chocolat alongside. It was good that we could share it as it would have been a very rich dessert for one.
A mignardises tower finished off the meal.
We enjoyed ourselves during the entire evening. The ambiance is French and lush, without overdoing it. The tables are well spaced and the noise level low. The pace was right; the servers were efficient and attentive, although I found their descriptions of the complicated dishes, with occasional variations from the printed menu, too detailed to follow and remember. Well, the dishes were more complex than I prefer, but the flavors were all pulling in the same direction within a dish and were not overdone. In the previous two weeks Linda and I had been to two of New York’s three-Michelin-star high temples: Eleven Madison Park and Jean Georges. (No blog posts now.) I enjoyed Bouley more as the flavorings showed better balance, restraint and respect for the ingredients.
Addendum: On March 6, 2015 Linda and I returned to Bouley for lunch. We had gone to the Bouley Test Kitchen, two blocks south, to look at it as a possibility for my upcoming 75th birthday party in July. After the short, but icy, walk, we enjoyed the aroma of fresh apples in Bouley’s entry way.
We ordered the Five Course Lunch Winter Tasting Menu, an extraordinary bargain at $55. With it we had a bottle of 2013 Tortochot Gevrey-Chambertin that was just right.
The same amuse gueules as at the dinner a month before arrived. The first was a piece of salmon with Tasmanian mustard; the second was kudzu starch on a thin wafer topped with black truffle.
This time the mustard was happily more restrained and the truffles were in fresh slices, in addition to a purée.
The genial bread cart man came by.
He offers: Fig, Saffron Walnut, Pistachio Hazelnut, Apricot Walnut, Black Current Anise, Olive, Garlic, Miche, Sourdough and Kuzu Bread.
Linda started with
Blini of Scottish Smoked Salmon
Salmon Trout Roe, White Truffle Honey.
Linda found the clever meringue “sandwich” blinis elegant, but would have preferred a less-sweet taste with the salmon to start the meal.
We both had
Alaska Live Dungeness Crab, Black Truffle Dashi.
This version of chawanmushi is a house specialty. The crabs used seem to vary with the catch of the day. The flavors are rich and delicious.
We both had
Organic Long Island Duck
Indian Reservation Wild Rice, Wheat Berries, Black Dates and Hand Milled Polenta
The duck breast was flavorful and well cooked, but the other ingredients underneath became too much of a mish mash.
Linda’s dessert was
Hot Caramelized Anjou Pear
Valrhona Chocolate, Biscuit Breton, Hot Toffee Sauce
Huckleberry and Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream
This is a magnificent dessert. The combination is excellent, down to the chocolate and toffee sauce on which the biscuit sits.
The mignardises tower finished things off. They kindly offered to bag them up for us to take home.
The lunch was very good and give us some guidance on what we might order for the birthday party, but, of course, there will be a summer menu by then.