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A Vegetarian Bouley...

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I just wanted to write a quick review of my experience at Bouley last Wednesday afternoon, in hopes that it might help others looking for a great vegetarian meal in the Manhattan area. I knew that I was only going to be in the city for a couple of days on business, and because of a tight schedule, would only have room for one really great fine dining experience. I struggled as to whether I should eat at Daniel, Bouley, or Jean-Georges. Finally, on the recommendation of a friend who had worked at both Daniel and the Danube in years past, I decided to call Bouley and arrange for a 2PM lunch, and I requested a 3-course vegetarian tasting menu.
When I arrived at Bouley I was a bit distraught because the maitre'd offered a menu, and I had to remind him that I had made a special request. He asked if I was vegan, and I again reminded him that when I reserved my table several days earlier, I requested a lacto-ovo vegetarian meal. He then nodded, went to the back, and then returned, taking my menu away. I requested the wine menu and a sommelier came out; I eventually chose a pinot noir (called something georges....I just remember it was $23 /glass). Immediately a server came with a raisin knot bread and a mini baguette, along with butter. I ordered a bottle of sparkling water, and was then presented with an amuse bouche of a tomato gelee. It was a delicious starter, and the cold acidity of the tomato worked very well with the sweetness of the raisin bread I was noshing. Next course was a dish of peas, leeks, and asparagus, in two savory, thick sauces (one brown, one white). Aside from the pastry, this was my favorite dish, with a strong flavour of truffle oil present. Next, was a complimentary poached egg topped with (appenzeller???) cheese in a rich foam. This was just ok; although the egg was poached nicely, I thought one more curl of cheese would have been perfect. Next a bread tray was presented; I was offered a tasting of about 7 types, but I chose to try only the pistachio and the cardamom. Both were delicious, with a very nice chewiness and great crust on the pistachio in particular. I finished my wine and was presented with another glass, for which I was not charged. Next, I was presented with a plate, containing four bowls: fava beans and porcini mushrooms; gnocchi in a small amount of broth and herbs; broccoli raab; a creamy asparagus soup. The mushrooms: perfect. The soup: a bit salty and tasted very similar to the pea/asparagus dish of a few minutes earlier. It was deliciious of course, if a bit boring. When I took a bite of the raab with a spoonful of soup, however, the flavours married and the bitterness of the raab worked so well I wound up quite pleased. Next, sorbet (was it white pepper?) with a strawberry gelee. I commented to my server that I could not drink any more wine b/c I was getting a little flushed :-) and a few minutes later he brought out a chocolate soufflee with three types of ice cream (espresso, dark choc. chunk, and almond) and a complimentary glass of sparkling dessrt wine, which he assured me was not too strong. By this time, I was stuffed, but I kept eating because that souflee was one of the best I've had. When I finally reached the hard little bit of dark chocolate at the soufflee's center I was in heaven. Then, a dish of coffee and banana gratin. I ordered a single espresso to shake away the wine. I was then presented with a plate of about 10 different petit fours and received two more demitasses of espresso free of charge. This meal rivalved meals I have had in France (my favorite place to dine!) and, with the exception of the fact that they may have forgotten my vegetarian request and did this "on the fly," the service was pretty much flawless. As a matter of fact, that may be to their credit; they executed my meal imbeccably, especially if they were not expecting to prepare a vegetable tasting. The bill was $90 and worth every penny. All in all, a lovely vegetarian dining experience. I will definitely return to Bouley.

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  1. Bouley seems to have a habit of "forgetting" vegetarian meals that were requested in advance. My husband has had issue with them repeatedly and was not as pleased as you were with the result.

    For restaurants with permanent vegetarian tasting menus that match or sometimes even surpass the regular tasting menus, check out Aquavit, Per Se and Grammercy Tavern.

    1. Thanks for the detailed account. My wife is a vegetarian and we were really impressed with Cafe Boulud and were thinking about going back there soon; instead i think well try Bouley.