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Bar Boulud Review

Well, this is the second time I will be writing this, since just as I finished and thought to copy it into Word, my internet connection cut out. Arggh. However, I will try to persevere and replicate it.

We stopped in at about 1pm yesterday after seeing The Counterfeiters (highly recommend) at Lincoln Plaza. I could immediately see the issues others have had with the entrance - there is only a tiny space for waiting customers, and there is quite a chill when a breeze goes by. I wouldn't want to sit in the front on a cold day. I would note that the general feeling when arriving would be much improved if there was also less chill from the hostess, who was quite unsmiling and acted more like a saleswoman at Chanel upon the arrival of poorly dressed person at her store, than a welcoming face.

We didn't have a reservation and were offered seats at the large round "tasting table" in the back. There is also a rectangular tasting table. We walked back there, past the bar with many empty seats, and asked to be seated there instead, which we were - at the back end of the bar. The bartender gave us menus and a winelist. We ordered a $50 Burgundy and two pates – I had the guinea hen one and my husband the pate de grand-mere. For our main courses, we ordered the steak frites (rare) and the lamb ragu papardelle, with olives, grape tomatoes and what I think were tiny cubes of celeriac. The brunch menu isn’t on the website yet, but offers two courses for $29 and three for $38, with a $10 supplement for the steak. Overall the food was excellent – lovely bread, a nice frisee salad with each pate (served with toasted bread, which was quickly replaced when we used up the first plate of it) very tasty steak with great frites, and I really enjoyed my pasta dish, as did my husband. I ordered the iles flottantes (sp?) for dessert, thinking that the rose petal croquante would be interesting, but it was a bit overwhelming in rose flavor, as rose flavor does tend to be. We capped this off with two well drawn espressi. Service throughout our meal was professional and friendly.

Chef Boulud arrived shortly after we ordered and lingered in our area, which serves as a service station of sorts – drinks, as well as food, since the stairs from the kitchen open up at the bar. He noticed my picking out a piece of cork from my wine glass and asked if we needed anything, and we had a nice brief chat about screwtops versus corks. He also stopped at several tables to "check in", before settling in at the other end of the bar for what appeared to be a meeting with someone.

We’ll definitely return, as it is a nice option after an early movie. Tab before tip was about $140. I did get the sense that certain tables were having service issues, based on overhearing waiters etc. in our vicinity, and a lot of wrong drinks going out, but they had two suited men who seemed responsible for smoothing over any ruffled feathers.

The bartender told us, by the way, that they eventually plan to be open from lunch straight through dinner - we'd stopped by the week before at 2:30 and they were closed.

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  1. MMR:
    Thanks for your fine report.
    I was wondering if you might be able to compare Bar Boulud with Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Bldg. (we also plan to go to the morning show of "Counterfeiters" and are more attracted to Bouchon's menu.)
    Are the prices similar or is one place more expensive than the other?
    We're more interested in sandwiches, salads and soups than the more ambitious and pricey Bar Boulud.
    Thanks for any advice you can give.

    4 Replies
    1. re: idia

      I've not been to Bouchon Bakery, unfortunately, so I can't help. Bar Boulud - at least on the brunch menu - did have a croque monsieur and a croque madame (poached egg on top - my husband almost ordered it as well when he saw it go by) and the salads did look nice.

      1. re: idia

        MMR did indeed give an excellent report. Well done!

        Regarding Bar Boulud vs. Bouchon Bakery (dueling Bs), the stark, consumer palace ambience at Time Warner can't compare with the much sexier Bar Boulud. But if you're really more interested in less ambitious fare, Bouchon is probably your best bet. It's a very stylish little cafe with the best food you'll ever eat in a mall. Deconstructed S'mores, anyone? And it's a tad less expensive than Bar Boulud.

        1. re: citycook

          Thanks City Cook. Sounds like Bouchon Bakery (I get my Bouchons, Bouluds and Bouley's all mixed up), is way more my speed all around.
          I have been forcing wanting to go to Bar Boulud, it's the new "in" place, but being honest with myself, I have too many negative thoughts about it.

      2. Thanks a lot for a thorough report. I'm glad to hear Bar Boulud is so accessible. It's a place I'm really interested to try.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ChefJune

          In terms of "accessible" - next time, I would try to make a reservation, fwiw.

        2. Thanks for yet another find report. Bar Boulud is on our short list since their menu really plays into sweet spot as far as food is concerned.

          1. I went last week with my husband and mother. We sat in the front, which was sort of like sitting at one of those dime a dozen lunch places throughout the city, plus it was raining and cold, and when the door opened, it was slightly unpleasant. THe food, however, was very good. I had a beet salad with goat cheese and bacon, which was delicious, and a croque madame, with which you can never go too far wrong. My husband had charcuterie, which was lovely; my mother had the roast chicken, which was also terrific. I wasn't crazy about the service- it took far too long for us to get our wine, and the waitress kept spilling water on the table. I will go back, but I wasn't as blown away as I thought I'd be.

            10 Replies
            1. re: sed231

              I would be grateful to anyone who could point me to a positive review of this place. So far, all I have come up with are negative reports.

              1. re: idia

                "Overall the food was excellent" and "Service throughout our meal was professional and friendly" both sound pretty positive to me. Why don't you try it and tell us what you think?

                1. re: JoanN

                  Yes - my review was meant to be entirely positive, aside from some observations of minor issues others were having and my comment about the hostess. Thanks for clarifying that Joan - I think that I tend not to gush about places - but we really enjoyed our meal, our food, our service and, as I posted, we'll definitely be back.

                  I didn't expect to be "wowed" as I would at Daniel for example - seems to me that this is a different kind of place.

                  1. re: JoanN

                    JoanN: I guess I didn't communicate myself correctly. What I should have said was, is there any newspaper, magazine or other review of this restaurant that was a positive one? So far the professionally written reviews I have read (not by Chowies) were mid to negative ones.

                    1. re: idia

                      Bruni gave it two stars - and while I don't always agree with him, I don't think of that as mid to negative - here's a link:


                      1. re: MMRuth

                        I really thank you for that article. It helped put some things in perspective for me.
                        Maybe some day David W and I will meet and make it a foursome so we can occupy a "friendly" booth for a late afternoon snack, which seems the only way to go! ;-)

                        1. re: idia

                          Now I'm blushing....I'll be interested to see how this place develops once they are open all day.
                          And MMRuth, I hate to contadict, but that's a review of Bar Blanc, not Boulud-though he does mention it in passing.
                          For my money, in that immediate area, I'd rather eat at the Nougatine room.

                          1. re: David W

                            Bouchons/Blancs/Bouluds/Bouleys -- way too many B's for me!

                            1. re: David W

                              Sorry about that!! I did think that it was odd that he'd review a place so soon after it opened -ha!

                2. An Additional Report on Bar Boulud:
                  I went there last night with a friend. We had no reservation as the place was fully booked. We were told about the communal table or the bar. We decided to give it a try. The greeting at the door was odd and somewhat "chilly" as MMRuth mentions above. Not rude, just not entirely friendly. Maybe this is stress because the place is incredibly busy as its new. Anyway, we were seated at a table in the front when all was said and done. There were moments that a cool gust of air would fill that front area, but we were just happy to get in w/o a reservation.
                  I tried the $14 pear martini. It was very good, not too sweet. The prices on the wine by the glass list offer a couple of "inexpensive" options, $8 and $10. But then the prices escalate quickly. I ordered the coq au vin $24, my friend ordered the lamb navarin $26. We both liked our respective our dishes. The chicken (3 pieces of dark meat) was very brown and had a nice rich deeply flavorful sauce. I did wish that the kitchen provided more of the pasta-like starch that came with the dish--it was a bit skimpy in this regard. My friend said her lamb was was very good and it looked wonderful as served in a mini cast iron pot. We each had the custard gateau w/berries. Again, we both liked this dessert. The place has a fresh crisp atmosphere and very nice bathrooms, BTW. All in all, I think this place is a great addition to the neighborhood. My only complaint, is that the prices, while not too crazy, seem a tad high for what is offered. But in fairness, the rent is very high at that location, so there isn't much that can be done in this regard--its a problem in NYC generally. The tab was $106 before tip.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Ora

                    I agree with the not rude but just not entirely friendly! A bit aloof perhaps ...

                  2. We finally went last night around 6-note that they have moved a couple of standing height tables to the front windows, where people stand and drink-the two tops at the front (where we were) are indeed not very comfortable-people coming and going, the feeling that you are just on the outside of the place...that said, the long table didn't look so hot either-there is a serving station behind it, so if you sit on that side you've got people behind you all the time. The only good seats look to be the booths for 4 along the wall.
                    I liked the gougere we were served while we were looking at the menu. We started with the "degustation" of charcuterie-the small size for $22-3 slabs plus two slices of ham, two small ramekins of potatoes and beets, two gherkins and two onions, a small dab of mustard. I'm sorry that I can't report exactly what we had, as I had trouble hearing the waiter when he explained it. I know my least favorite was the rabbit, but it was mostly very good. The ham was very good. Additional bread is brought with this dish.
                    My wife had the poulet roti, which I felt was a little dry/overcooked. Interestingly, she had a similar dish at Telepan last week, which was delicious.
                    I had the Navarin au Romarin-the lamb was very good, with vegetables (although I found the cherry tomatoes kind of odd). It wasn't so much a stew-there didn't seem much blending of the tastes-but I did enjoy it for what it was.
                    We finished with the tarte pont-nuef-pear tart, which had a nice anise flavor. Also the gateau Basque, which was a very nice custard with 3 brandied cherries. We had regular coffee, which was good and which they will refill, if you ask (but you do have to ask). Along with three modest glasses of wine-$152.81 before tip.
                    Oh, and when you head for the restrooms-if you step aside for someone coming in the other direction, use caution-there is a strange little rock garden along the edge of the hallway. We also picked up our coats down there, rather than going upstairs and having someone run back down to fetch them.
                    All in all-I find too much about the space awkward, the service just a little off (not bad, just not all you'd want-I had to flag down my waiter for my second glass of wine, brought after my main dish arrived), and the quality and quantity of the food a little to spare to justify the price. For that amount, I want either a better atmosphere, where I can relax, or outstanding food where I'm willing to put up with the other problems. I could see going back for a mid-afternoon snack, or brunch, but not for an actual dinner-and I'd try to round up two other people with hopes of securing a booth.

                    1. Thanks, MM. This was a great review, and reinstills my desire to try it out-especially knowing that he might be there. THe prices actually seem reasonable, considering the location and "theme". I am particularly happy to hear that they plan to stay open through the afternoon. And I love love love that you wrote "espressi". :)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                        Yes - I thought the pricing was reasonable. My husband loves saying "due espressi" - we're now practicing for our trip to a wedding in Capri this summer. I'll keep an eye out for information on when they start to be open all afternoon, but I'd bet it won't be for awhile - I think they still need to work out some of the existing service issues that many have experienced.

                      2. Three of us were there yesterday (Sat) for pre-opera lunch and had a good time. The food was excellent (salmon, steak and boudin blanc). The wine list is reasonable since prices fall within fat-account to skimpy-wallet range. Yet, the selection is wide and deep. Midway through the meal, Mr. Boulud sat next to our table. After we paid and got up to leave, I ventured and said "Hello, great place you have here." He got up, shook our hands and was gracious enough to chit chat for a minute. We look forward to our next meal here. It is a definite hit.

                        1. How is the selection of by-the-glass wines in terms of variety, quality, quantity and price? Thank you for any help.

                          1. We went last night and were very pleased. We arrived without reservations after seeing "The Last Mistress" at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and asked for a table outside and got one immediately. In general the service was very smooth--water glasses always filled, no rushing, not too long a wait between dishes, friendly without being intrusive.

                            It's all about the terrines isn't it? Next time I think we'll just do terrines and salads. We started with the Compote de Joue de Boeuf--a braised beef cheek terrine with onions and pistachio served cold with an onion garnish and mustard. It made me think I should experiment more with making terrines, which is a good thing. This would be a perfect dish to bring along on a picnic.

                            I had the Raie Grenobloise--skate over a very nicely done not-quite-creamed-not-quite-steamed spinach and potatoes browned in butter. After having it I read the negative reviews of the skate from a few months ago here on Chow, and I think they've figured it out. It wasn't too raw or too done. The flavors in most things we tried were subtle--nothing overpowering--mainly the flavors of the fresh ingredients and fleur de sel.

                            My wife had the Poulet Rôti aux Girolles, roast chicken with baby vegetables--which I would describe as nicely done but not particularly exciting.

                            For desert we split the Gâteau Basque--a slice of custard tart with three very intense brandied cherries. From the short description on the menu, one might expect something covered in cherries, but three is just enough and seems in keeping with the overall sense of restraint in the dishes we tried.

                            1. We went to Bar Boulud only because we had a limited amount of time to grab a bite before the ballet and it's right across the street. Other places we considered eating were Esca, Shun Lee West and Keen's. But we would have had to have eaten post-ballet (10:30 pm or so) had we gone to one of these places, and I did not really feel like eating chinese or mutton chops quite so late at night. That said, if we had to do it over again we would have simply headed to esca and had a bite of pasta with sea urchin or somesuch.

                              nevertheless... we went to bar boulud. it was so terrible! i have to disagree with many of these previous posters. the casual french fare at nearby bouchon bakery is far superior, even if it is in the slightly grim time warner building!

                              we had an arugula salad at boulud which tasted like the kind of thing you might eat in an airport - character-less arugula leaves (the kind that come in a bag at the super market, pre washed) with a few lame anchoviews and crumbles of pretty indistinguishable fried artichoke, barely dressed at all. it was a very tasteless salad and for $12 i have had much tastier salads at le pain quotidien.

                              we drank some decent sicilian red which was fine but not particulary characterful for $11 per glass.

                              we then tried the terrines grand-mere and grand-pere. maybe if you had never eaten a terrine before you would be excited about these - as they were perfectly tasty - but we have lived in france and we were not at all blown away. Also, each thin slice came on a big white plate with a drop of mustard and 2 cornichons on the side - i mean come on, please can i have 3 or 4 cornichons with my $18 terrine? despite being rammed full of people (there is a kind of farcial fight to nab seats at the communal bar, without any direction from the waitstaff) the place felt very COLD and airport-like in general. the servers were brusque and the host was somewhat snobby, with an over-exaggerated french accent.
                              in conclusion, if you are going to the ballet or the opera at lincoln center, resist the temptation to eat at bar boulud! it may be handy but you will have a much nicer and tastier (and even better-value) time somewhere else.

                              1. deb and i will be going to bar boulud for the first time feb 20. we'll arrive at 5 p.m. in advance of the dr. john/neville bros. show at terminal 5 (this ain't fancy).

                                our intent is to pop in, sample some wines and terrines and get out in time for the show. i call this "smash and grab" dining. any thoughts on the wines and the terrines? how can i exploit this place so we get the best of what they do while paring back the rest? we have 90 minutes at best, probably less.

                                thanks in advance.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: steve h.

                                  When I went in October, the standouts were the divinely truffly pate grandpere and the superb pork belly. For wine, we loved the 2004 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny, 1er cru (reasonably priced at $100).

                                  I found this post by cimui to be pretty comprehensive:

                                  1. re: daveena

                                    thanks daveena,
                                    i know what to do now.

                                    1. re: steve h.

                                      just a quick follow-up: enjoyed the wine (bottle of david duband haute cotes de nuit) and the large charcuterie platter. why the large? because it has all of the pates, terrines and dried meats found on the menu. very good. the espresso was extraordinary. we'll be back.

                                      notes: the room is quite long, narrow and interesting. the ceiling is barrel-shaped and gives the impression of a wine cellar. the design works. reservations are a good idea since lincoln center is across the street. arrive after showtime and you can probably get a seat at the community table without a problem. deb and i had the best seat in the house (a booth halfway down the room). we reserved early and arrived on time. dress is "business casual" but that's the low end of the spectrum. i felt we got value for our money. later, dr. john and the neville brothers at terminal 5 made the night damn near perfect.

                                      1. re: steve h.

                                        Went to Bar Boulond this weekend for lunch. Here is my reaction.

                                        This is not a place for vegetarians.

                                        This is not a place for people who are claustrophobic.

                                        This is not a place for people who like cute living animals.

                                        So I met up with two friends for Brunch before we went to the Ballet at 2pm (across the street). Our reservation was at 12:15. The space is very long and very cavernous. There are windows only in the front and the room goes back almost like a tunnel (except this tunnel is lined with light wood not coal).

                                        The crowd at this time was super old. I don’t mean this as a disrespect it was just surprising how many old people were here – it was like boca raton – but it was freezing outside. Strangely there were a number of solo/single ladies sitting at the long communal table having breakfast. (Sleazy Tip: I think if you want to meet solo ladies with some scratch to their name this would be a great place).

                                        I ordered a pear cosmopolitan (This was very delicious but the glass was small and the price was high 14$ - so it would be very expensive to booze it up here).

                                        My carnivorous friend ordered a small plate of the sliced meat. The plate had 3 pate like items. One with Rabbit/Beef and something else. I don’t eat cute animals so I tried to avoid looking at this.

                                        The menu is a like a big f-you to vegetarians. They try to have everyone order the set brunch which is two items (basically app and entrée) for 28$. I had the beet salad and the herbed omlet. Both were very very good. The beet salad was a excellent plain beet salad with some apples and cheese.

                                        The omelet was completely fluffy and very nice and light. It came with potatoes on the side which was similar to what one would get at the Galaxy Diner (not special).

                                        So all in all… for the price I was not the excited about the place and thought the food although well executed was not justifying of its lofty price.

                                        However it is super close to Lincoln Center.... super close.

                                2. I went to Bar Boulud today for Brunch, and it was an extremely disappointing experience. I did not have any problem with haughtiness from the hostess or any kind of attitude, but I just found that the food was extremely mediocre. We app started with the beet salad, and a duller salad with a far less interesting presentation would be difficult to find. It was supposed to have goat cheese, but they must have waved a goat over the dish and called it a day. I had the Croque Madame, which was fine, but completely un-memorable. No one else commented on the food since it all seemed to be just OK -- no "Oh, this is delicious," or any other comment about what we were eating. One member of our party asked for a plain salad after the meal, but he might have well have been asking for filet of unicorn by the looks we got from the waiter. I was so completely not impressed by the whole place that it will be unlikely that I would ever return.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    A few corrections.
                                    First, they wave the plate over the goat since the goat is much heavier and it is more difficult.
                                    Also, you should not eat unicorn, it is not sustainable.
                                    The same way I only like JG flagship, I am a big proponent of Cafe Boulud but no interest in the others though I did like DB Bistro but that was a long while ago. I am sure it is not as good now.

                                    1. re: dietndesire

                                      LOL. I'll take those corrections any day. Bar Boulud wouldn't have been my first choice, but I didn't make the reservations. I don't disagree with you on the "offspring."

                                      1. re: dietndesire

                                        Re: dbBistro. Had lunch there today, and the food was excellent.