Cafe Ruhlmann review
My boyfriend took me to Cafe Ruhlmann for Valentine's Day. He knows nothing about restaurants but saw it on my bookmarked list of restaurants to try.
The service was amazing and the restaurant was gorgeous and huge. Dinner was excellent but not mind-blowing. Everything was well executed and the quality was amazing but there was nothing about it that blew me away. We shared the steamed mussels in white wine and cream for an appetizer. It came with amazing fries and everything was topped by a course sea salt and parsley. It tasted great but was very predictable and a bit oily. For dinner, he got the beef Wellington (he loved the beef but found out that he didn't like pate and found that it "infected" the bread-y coating so it was a waste). I've never seen beef wellington up close before but was surprised that the coating looked so much like a hard roll.
I was going to get the bouillabase (or however you spell it). The waiter told me that it was VERY fennel-y and got very mixed reviews and suggested an alternative. I went with his suggestion- pan-seared cod with mussels, clams, and scallop in a white wine and cream sauce. The seafood was all cooked perfect and the sauce, while good, was a bit bland. Plus, it started to separate out so you could see the oil blobbing around some of the solids in the sauce. That bugged me. Another thing that bothered me- and I admit that this is just me being fussy- was the quantity. It was one of the smallest pieces of fish I've ever been served. I know that it came with other seafood but I would have liked a bit more. We got a side of broccolini which was perfectly steamed and covered in pine nuts. It was very good but I kept wanting some other flavor in it- maybe butter or lemon?
Everything was perfectly cooked but there was nothing that made it stand out from any other good French restaurant. I guess I thought that a chef with Delouvrier's background would bring something with more flare and that disappointed me.
So, the ambience and service make it wonderful but, food-wise, Le Bouchon's just as good- and a lot cheaper.
Ditto - I also think Old Town Brasserie is a good alternative. I have been twice now to Ruhlmann, and while it is stunning and the food is executed well, it just doesn't pull me in - the service the first time was impeccable - when I ordered a bottle of wine that they were out of, they replaced it with a more expensive bottle at the original's price. The service the second time was deplorable - he tried to get us to order everything five minutes after we had been seated, and when we only ordered apps when he came back he warned us that our food might not all come out at once...stupid. I had the lobster risotto special with shaved truffle, for the $60 price I did expect more than a half dozen 1/4 inch cubes in the dish! The truffle was generous, though. The waiter definitely seemed as if he wanted a second turn at the table (we were at 7:30), but even at 9:00/9:30 half the tables were still available - we enjoyed our wine and company and stayed until 10:30, and on a Friday night it was pretty empty by that time.
I thought the same thing! The space is stunning. It reminds of Balthazar in New York, or some kind of old school supper club. I've been meaning to go back for dinner, but we had some oysters at the bar first (which pretty were decent in quality, their blue points were sweet and tasty).
I too really like Brasserie Ruhlmann for a great overall experience.
One must approach it, however, like every other French Brasserie--it's not supposed to be over-the-top, cutting-edge, or insert another cliche adjective here. Brasseries (is that the correct plural, not sure) are a small step up from Bistros, but not fine dining. In any event, I have always found French food a little boring in my opinion, you never get flavors that jump off the plate. Granted, Ruhlmann is not cheap but you are paying for some of the ambience--I love it.
All that being said, Brasserie Ruhlmann is a phenomenal all around experience. You'll feel as if you're dining somewhere other than the old Montgomery Ward HQ building and I have not been disappointed on a couple trips.