Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NYC Winter Restaurant Week 2010: Cafe Boulud

Spotted today at our Little Shop of Hors d'ouevres: a dragonfly presenting a Tiffany & Co. box from Audrey II to Blair Waldorf.  Has B finally found her "somewhere that's green?"  Will Chuck Bass "suddenly see-more" opportunity to regain B's affection? You know you love me...


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Sorry, I couldn't resist...  This odd picture (it does look like Leighton Meester and a wilting venus flytrap) was at eye level for our entire meal today, and we were definitely dining in gossipgirl's hood.  Despite the eccentric artwork and utter void of facial expressions from the overly-retouched upper east siders dining around us, lunch at Cafe Boulud ranks up there with one of my favorite New York dining experiences.

Half a block from Central Park, and a stone's throw from the Whitney Museum of American Art, Cafe Boulud resides in the reconceived former home of famous French chef, Daniel Boulud's eponymous restaurant... Daniel.

The service was absolute perfection.  We were guided through our meal with expert suggestions, and a touch of warmth and sincere hospitality often lacking in some of New York's more formal establishments.  The menu is inspired by four of Daniel Boulud's culinary muses, and as such, divided into four tempting quadrants: classic French cuisine, seasonal delicacies, the farmer's market, and cuisines of the world.  

Where else can you, in one meal, enjoy dumplings, wiener schnitzel, and agnolotti -- Asian, Viennese, and Italian -- prepared to sheer perfection by a master French chef?  That is exactly what we did!  And I could not more highly recommend a restaurant boasting such a variety that hits the target on virtually every dish.  Remember, not only do they offer a prix fixe lunch year round, but we enjoyed a bottle of sauvignon blanc for $24.

Our amuse-bouche, courtesy of our server, was black truffle arancini (fried rice balls) with a fontina center...

French mache salad (lamb's lettuce) with shaved fennel crudites, ribbons of gruyere cheese, and blood oranges.  This was one of the tangiest, most refreshing salads I have enjoyed.  Ordinarily, I am not a fan of oranges of any sort.  Though I love the flavor, the fleshiness of the actual fruit doesn't bode well with me.  But these blood oranges were tender, tart, and a great contrast to the other players in this salad.

The seared short rib dumplings were simultaneously hearty and delicate (a crispy golden base with a juicy filling), and paired with a dipping reduction of spiced orange, scallions, and ginger, these little guys didn't last long in their steaming basket.


Seared diver scallops with kohlrabi (the preparation of this German turnip was tender and earthy) with artichokes barigoule (tasty tiny cubes of meaty mushroom)...  Two of the scallops were drizzled with a whole grain mustard jus, while one was dressed in an herb crust.  This is how I would like my scallops.  Every single day.  Please, and thank you.  What a playful convergence of sea and earth, and it was just as much fun to eat.  Simply delicious.

The artichoke agnolotti was a showcase of the farmer's market, with browned butter and lemon, and wild arugula.

My lunch date had a good chuckle when I ordered the wiener schnitzel (say it a couple of times... vee-ner shnit-zul), but this dish was absolutely no joke.  This crispy golden, buttery slice of veal sat on a bed of braised cabbage and sweet gala apples, a lovely contrast to the whole grain mustard jus (making a reprise appearance from the earlier scallops).

The lemon tart and frangipane (a moist almond sponge cake) was crowned with drops of meringue, and accompanied by a fromage blanc sorbet (yes, cheese sorbet...)

The chocolate pot de creme, however, was the most decadent and delicious chocolate sculpture, with a foundation of praline feuillantine topped with a cloud of milk jam mousse, and vanilla bean ice cream.

And as a beautiful reminder that sometimes the simplest things are the most satisfying, our server brought us this basket of warm-from-the-oven miniature madeleines, dusted with confectioner's sugar.  At the end of an exquisite lunch, these tiny cakes and a cappuccino left the biggest smile on my face.  Thank you, Cafe Boulud, for a gorgeous reminder that New York does it like nowhere else.

Café Boulud on Urbanspoon

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