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Birthday celebration - Bouley or Cafe Boulud?

Any thoughts on the two restaurants for a birthday celebration? Both have great reviews, but was wondering if there's anyone who's been to both who can make a comparison? Anyone know which place has better desserts/foie gras, and also which place is better value?

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  1. There are a couple of differences that I could find from my previous experiences:

    - Bouley is more romantic and crowds tend to be mid-aged. Very elegant. Cafe Boulud is more for older crowds (like a lot of diners at 50s, 60s and above). Also very elegant and upscale.

    - IMO Bouley has better foie gras; Cafe Boulud definitely beats Bouley in the dessert department (by a long mile)

    - Both are able the same value. Bouley does give you a lot of freebies in between the courses, especially a lot of pre-desserts.

    9 Replies
    1. re: kobetobiko

      While over all I loved my one lunch at Bouley, I also found the desserts distinctly underwhelming. It's been too long since I've been to Cafe Boulud for me to comment on it. Also - isn't Bouley moving? Are they still open?

      1. re: kobetobiko

        Are they really both the same value? The tasting menu at Bouley (5 courses) is currently at $95. The tasting menu at Cafe Boulud is $145 (I asked the person on the phone), although I'm not sure what it includes. It does seem like if you do a la carte at Cafe Boulud, it would cost less than $95 ($20 appetizer + $40 entree + $15 dessert), but it would only be 3 courses and I guess no freebies compared to Bouley. But we are a young couple (early 20s, so maybe Bouley is a more appropriate setting for us).

        1. re: kewlly

          What do you mean by "no freebies" at Cafe Boulud? Meals there always start with an amuse, and at the end, there is that basket filled with those mind-blowing madeleines. Worth going there just for them!

          I haven't been to Bouley, so I can't do a comparison. However, Cafe Boulud is a favorite of ours. The cuisine has always been superb, and the current excecutive chef, Gavin Kaysem, who arrived at the end of '07, continues that tradition. He is extremely talented, won this year's James Beard Award for Best Rising Chef, and is putting out food that is creative and truly delicious..

          There have been recent posts on this board about extremely serious service flaws at Bouley. I can't imagine that ever happening at Cafe Boulud where service is always cordial and polished.

          1. re: RGR

            I think what he or she means about freebies is that you get a huge lemon tea cake for the next morning at Bouley (and his other restaurants).

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Aha! Thanks for that info, Miss Needle.

              1. re: RGR

                Besides the lemon cake at the end, I also heard you get free pre-desserts, sometimes even small courses in between your meal at Bouley. Not sure if this is something they do at Cafe Boulud - the only freebie there I've heard about is the macaroons.

                1. re: kewlly

                  It's *madeleines* at the end of the meal, not macarons -- totally different items. Besides those and the amuse at the beginning of the meal, there are no other extras at Cafe Boulud.

                  1. re: RGR

                    I have to say thought, those madeleines are probably the best you can get in the city! :D