An Evening at the Impressively Re-Imagined Café Boulud By Stacia Carlton
It would be far too simple for me to state that Café Boulud is beautiful or elegant or its kitchen’s offerings delicious. We knew this would be the case. We expected this to be the case. He is after all Daniel Boulud! And his bistro is located in the heart of the unfailingly elegant Yorkville.
His recent re-launch of Café Boulud located just above DBar in the lobby of the Four Seasons at 60 Yorkville Ave is nothing short of exquisite. I suppose that happens when you hire award winning designer Martin Brudnizki to re-imagine the space.
The interior alone is worth a visit to the new Café Boulud. It’s spectacular and understated all at once. I’m not certain how one could describe Hermès wallpaper as understated, but it is, and I even managed to keep my hands off it. The two tone leather banquettes and stunning ’50’s style chairs in sumptuous, and dare I say almost delicious, dark tan leather are not only stylish but also comfortable which almost never happens. The vaguely nautical reminiscent lighting and plentiful, yet not remotely self indulgent, use of mirrors combine for a distinctly last-mid-century modern vibe.
There is the unmistakable sensation of being in a Parisian bistro (apologies for the cliché) and yet looking out the two story windows you’re quickly reminded that you’re in the middle of our rather more modern new world home. “How do you top off the mid century feel” you are probably asking yourself. Might I suggest that having “Casablanca” in all its B&W&Bogart glory screening for two floors to view might just do the trick.
This is experiential dining and it is only further elevated by the menu. If you doubt me for one moment then sit tight and let the salivating begin.
But first a short word on the service… WOW! I did say the word was short did I not? The inestimable Daniel Boulud, nor the Four Season would settle for less. We all know professional service. They’ve been doing it so long they anticipate your every wish and yet, it often seems that they look right through you. Not so at Café Boulud. There is an unmistakable impression that the staff here are genuinely invested in your enjoyment of the experience.
Their signature cocktail made with a specially imported tonic for their rosemary scented gin & tonic is served in a copper tankard to help maintain its chilly perfection. If you question the placement of the rosemary in the cocktail let me assure you that once the bartender gives that sturdy sprig a little “flick with the bic” your olfactory senses will cause you to imagine the wind in your hair on the deck of a 75’ boat just outside the Monaco harbour. But let’s not dwell on fantasies and dive directly into the menu which was oh-so-very real and surprisingly down to earth.
The starters were all solid. The kale salad was great and stunningly assembled even though I think it might be time for kale to take its leave from restaurant menus. The star of the starters however was, and it should be noted that this is my particular area of weakness, the charcuterie board.
Among the mains we were treated to a lobster tail in its shell served on wild rice with an inspired ginger beurre blanc and Pacific halibut with cauliflower and capers. Both dishes were kept simple and reasonably sized and in both the headlining components were allowed to shine.
Next came the meat course which included a blanquette au vert, one of the kitchen’s highlights according to some. It is a veal stew with herbs and green vegetables. Smooth, creamy, rich and delicious undeniably yet still a bit fatty which made it difficult to finish. Difficult, but not impossible! The lamb ragu cavatelli looked and smelled phenomenal and my dining companion assured me that it was all that and more.
The handcut beef tartare, which is seasoned table side was ambrosial. I should be clear however that I feel unable to be terribly objective where any raw meat is concerned, but I stand firmly behind my description. It was held back only by the overly delicate gaufrettes which were frustratingly not up to the job.
The rotisserie is the cornerstone of the kitchen and the results are the pride and joy of everyone involved in the process. The resulting chicken was tender and juicy to say the least. If you’ve enough in your party I highly recommend ordering the whole bird and enjoy its stunning presentation as well as superbly satisfying mouthfeel.
The desserts which are taken very seriously included a rotisserie golden pineapple (I suppose if you ship a rotisserie from France then you may as well make use of it no?) and coconut sorbet. A dome of chocolate playfully revealed profiteroles by a stream of poured hot dark chocolate to much acclamation. And finally a Grand Marnier soufflé with orange cream anglaise which was so rich and creamy it seemed almost inappropriate to be eating it in public.
This will not be an inexpensive evening but if experiential dining is what you are looking for then Café Boulud is where you must without question find yourself.
Stacia Carlton is a culinary school graduate and food writer. You can find her weekly at www.bestillandeat.com