Wednesday, January 6, 2016
New York City, NY Edition: Bouley
When making my dream food list for New York City, I was sure to hit all the key points: lots of pizza, cheesecake, that frozen hot chocolate, sweets from Magnolia Bakery, and, oh yeah, some sort of fancy place.
Bouley, a contemporary French restaurant located in Tribeca in Manhattan, is owned by four-star chef David Bouley. Zagat has rated the restaurant very highly - as the third-best restaurant in New York City in 2013. TripAdvisor rated it the best restaurant in the United States in 2015. Initially, I thought this restaurant would be far, far out of my price range - but, they have a $55 five-course lunch tasting menu. Perfect.
I made reservations way in advance, so I had plenty of time to fret about what I was going to wear. Their dress code stated: Casual Celebratory... whatever that means. They just made that up. This wasn't the only thing we were doing that day in NYC, so I had to have something comfortable enough that I could work for miles before and after this lunch. I, fortunately, figured out something (after shopping at too many places) and found no problem when I walked inside. There were, however, lots of suit jackets (required for men) and fancy dresses from the women.
As soon as we walked in, we entered a room filled with rows of apples, where we checked our coats. Then, we were guided toward another waiting area filled with plush seats and giant floral art. I looked around at this point, a little intimidated. I gave myself some silent motivation - you're fancy! You can do this!
Before long, we were seated near the center of our dining area, yet it felt private at the same time. The restaurant is classically decorated - romantic - with fine art decorating the walls and gold leaf ceilings. A staircase toward the back leads to the most elegant bathrooms I've ever seen.
We placed our orders for our selections from the five-course menu. There are five sections - some with upcharges for specific items - and you choose one item from each section. I'll get into that in a moment, but let me first talk about this roving bread cart that made its way through the restaurant. There were at least a dozen or so breads - garlic loaf, ginger and pear, buckwheat, peach, date - so many kinds. It was incredible. And he would come around every so often to slice you off a piece of fresh-baked bread. I went for a walnut and peach slice, as well as a garlic slice.
But to start our meal, we had a small rolls that I slathered with butter and devoured.
Then, we were started with a small palate cleanser that was similar to a watermelon/tomato gazpacho.
A second amuse bouche was a truffled puree cracker that was super rich in just a single bite.
Then, it was on to our tasting menu (we were just getting through the complementary stuff so far!). First up for me was Hawaiian Hiramasa and Nantucket blue fin, with meyer lemon, passion fruit and fresh verbena. This is how raw fish should taste. Completely clean, refreshing, and the citrus and verbena flavors took it to another level.
Next up was the porcini flan - golden princess crab, black truffle dashi. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I ordered this dish, but it was excellent. A small bowl of black looks intimidating, but I nibbled on the huge chunk of crab before swimming into the rest of the flan. It's a mushroom and crab soup - if you love that umami flavor, doooo this.
Then, it was slow-braised kobe style beef cheeks with blue kale gnocchi. What are beef cheeks? Well, the kind of just taste like pot roast. The little tender gnocchi was delicious. The beef cheeks were as tender as it gets. AND, it came with a small additional plate of polenta that just melted in my mouth.
As we begin the decline of the meal, I had fresh black raspberry gelato. It was perfectly sweet and tart.
My final course was a hot caramelized anjou pear with valrhona chocolate, biscuit breton and hot toffee sauce. The nice crisp outside gave way to a warm, juicy pear that had this hint of caramelization. Just delicious. It also came with a black raspberry/marscarpone scoop that was so good.
But, of course, it wasn't totally done there. Time for the petit fours! Which is this incredible display of bite-sized chocolates. Many of these were kind of bitter - so not my super favorite.
Also, there was coffee at the end, which also came with an incredible display of all this sugar!
And, just for fun, take a look at this ridiculous bathroom.
And as we were getting our coats, we were given a to-go treat of a lemon loaf to take home. I love the idea of sending folks home with a parting gift.
Certainly a memorable experience - from incredible dishes to impeccable service and all of the little touches inbetween that don't go unnoticed. And if you want to get the star treatment at an affordable price, check out this tasting menu.