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Aug 26, 2008 11:33 AM

Bouley a mess right now?

So I've been planning a special occasion dinner for a month now, that we were pretty settled on having at Bouley (we had also managed to book Per Se but were inclined to cancel based on a 9:15 dinner time). Anyway, its for 6 of us, with a whole slew of special occasions (husband's 30th, my 36th, we have a baby due a month or so later, our 10th wedding anniversary, family in town from the name it), and we've been trying to obsessively plan for a perfect evening.

Bouley was where we had a wonderful anniversary 5 years or so back, with a 10+ course degustation menu. I made clear when I booked this dinner, that our intention was a similar lengthy menu, that we wished to sort out the bill in advance (as they dont do 10+ courses regularly like they used to...), no menus, wine pairings, a vegetarian, and a pregnant woman. I was assured all of this was no big deal and would be sorted. Then the comedy started. First a call to tell me my rez at Danube was going to have to *MOVE* to Bouley as Danube is closing. The rez was always supposed to be at Bouley... They also had it booked for the wrong night (one night later). Then I phone back to sort out in detail all of our wishes and make sure none of it was too much trouble. I was told to expect a call back from the maitre'd which never came.

Fast forward to today ----- I'm told first that they dont do the degustation 10+ course any more, though he could talk to Chef Bouley and perhaps accomodate. That he couldnt tell me in advance what the price of that menu would be. That he wasnt sure if the restaurant would be moving across the street by then --- keep in mind, the meal is a few weeks away now, and they don't know yet what date they're going to move?? I can just imagine it being the day of the meal.....lot of fun that would be with the chaos that I'm sure would ensue. I could probably just about deal with all of this if he hadnt then told me he had no idea when he could get me any answers / whether we'd be able to work anything out prior to the day of the meal (including its location), as Chef Bouley is traveling and working on his new menu.

Anyway, it looks like we're going to go what seems a much safer route with Per Se, where we had an excellent anniversary 2 years ago, and where the service was impeccable. Really a shame, I have very fond memories of the Bouley meal. I also get the sense from reading recent posts that Bouley's food quality has been hit or miss lately?

Has anyone had experience with either place and planning a meal for a small group?

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  1. We've never been to Bouley, and I have little desire to go there. The situation you describe sounds like a nightmare in the making. Good thing you have per se to fall back on. While it is true that meals there take several hours, I don't think 9:15 is too late in the evening though it would be about the latest res I would accept.

    As for how things will go, I don't think you should worry one little bit. They specialize in perfection. When we were there in June celebrating our anniversary, they prepared a special menu for our son-in-law who has certain dietary restriction. And they gladly made a substitution on the spot for something on the menu that I did not particularly care for.

    So, inform them of all your specific needs, and they will be taken care of. Then show up at the appointed hour, relax, and let the evening roll out. I'm sure you will come away completely satisfied.

    Best wishes on your special occasions, hope all goes well with the impending birth, and Bon Appetit!

    1. I have enjoyed one very special meal at Bouley about 8 mos ago and would have not hesistated to go back (after visiting a bunch of other 'must do's').

      That said, I would not feel confident in plunking down the sort of money it costs to eat there with the 'red flags' that are being raised for you right now. Even though the time is not as agreeable, I would say go to Per Se or put another way, just avoid Bouley.

      1. So sorry to hear about the confusion at Bouley since Bouley has always been one of my favorite restaurants. Per Se is great too (just 2 - 3 times more expensive). With a 9:15 reservation, you won't be finished with dinner until midnight. Per Se never has a problem with adjustments in their menu (in fact once they changed a lobster course, and it was even better than the original preparation). Congratulations on all of your celebrations. I do hope you report back after your Per Se dinner.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ellenost

          Actually it really isnt any more expensive. The maitre'd at Bouley said we were 'probably' looking at $200 - 250 pp for a 10 course degustation menu. Per Se is $275 but that includes gratuity. So its nearly identical, and certainly not 2 - 3 x more. And I'd say a similar amount of food if you do Bouley's longer menu, having done that before and having had the Per Se menu.....

          Anyway, glad you all seem to agree that Per Se is the right way to go :)

          1. re: Nehna

            $200 - $250 per person is a lot more than I've paid for the chef's degustation menu at Bouley (but that was last year). If price is the same, Per Se is the way to go especially since Bouley seems confused.

        2. Nehna- I think Bouley is overextending itself/himself recently. This weeks NY mag does a short article and preview of all his places in Tribeca and how he is apparently opening 3 more restaurants in 08-09 (some in September apparently). That is probably part of the issue though not excusable.

          1. In my experience, Per Se bends over backwards to address any food requirements you may have (food allergies, likes, dislikes). They are all about making sure you are happy. We've eaten there a few times now and each time their service somehow surpasses all the previous visits.

            Bouley owned restaurants have occassionally been helpful but more times than not, they have been rude, unconcerned and/or unhelpful about our needs and wishes. That is why they don't get our money anymore.

            Enjoy your hassle free meal at Per Se!

            3 Replies
            1. re: BW212

              Per Se is perhaps the best dining experience in New York. The food, service, and atmosphere is far superior than Bouley. If the price is the same, I would pick Per Se every day and twice on Sundays.

              1. re: sethd

                I cannot begin to sum up what an amazing time we had at Per Se.

                To start with, we ended up adding a 7th to our party. When I called to see if they could accommodate, they ended up offering us the private dining room (normally for 10 people) and a better time (8 pm instead of 9:15).

                The menus were customized w/ happy birthday wishes. There were some minor mistakes made and they whisked away the faulty menus and replaced them with newly printed ones 10 mins later. Roxanne, the sommelier whom I coordinated with in advance, was in and out all night checking on us. She did an excellent job coordinating our wine pairing, and also coming up with outrageously delicious non-alcoholic concoctions for me (house made tonic...a yuzu anise bloody mary)

                Our primary waiter was probably the best I've ever seen (we had at least a half dozen other waiters helping him to bring in each course). The vegetarian menu my mother in law had rivaled, in many courses, the standard menu which we had. Highlight being the hen egg dish covered with freshly grated summer truffles (done table side) when we had our lobster course.

                The funniest part of the night I suppose was that I was in labor and having pretty regular contractions---our waiter refused to believe me. I ended up having my son born 30 hours or so after leaving. The meal was well worth the discomfort.

                I wouldnt know where to begin on what the highlights of the meal were, there were so many wonderful touches....the amazing butter they serve, the oysters and pearls, the famous ratatouille dish, the lamb, the fillet of medai, the multiple desserts and homemade truffles....

                I hope I have a 3rd occasion to return.

                1. re: Nehna

                  Oh I'm so glad you went to Per Se instead of Bouley. There is no comparison between the two, in my opinion. That's amazing that they gave you the private dining room. You actually just got quite a deal!

                  Congratulations on your baby!