Food dissapoints at Cafe Boulud, but I got to meet Daniel Boulud
Ever since I met Gavin Kaysen at bocuse d'or I have always wanted to try his food at Cafe Boulud - one of Daniel Boulud's many restaurants. I have been to Bar Boulud and had a great time so I was expecting great things from this NY Times 3 Star Restaurant, but overall the experience did not meet my expectations.
I had to make a late change to the reservation, changing it from 2 to 4 people because my aunt and grandma were going to join me. I was nervous about this because they are not used to eating in this type of a restaurant. I really did not want them to be asking for ketchup with there meal and embarrassing me.
After having to visit the Whitney Museum (I can't stand art, I think it is so boring), I was eager to get to Cafe Boulud and enjoy some great food. We got to Cafe Boulud a few minutes before the reservation time, but we were still seated immediately. When the hostess went to seat us my Grandma and Aunt did not follow my mom and I for some reason, so the seating was kind of awkward, but that was not the hostess's fault.
Our waiter asked what we would like to drink and we all got water, but my mom got a coffee, which she enjoyed.
The bread is served in parchment paper and you have to rip it apart to get pieces. I am OK with the idea of serving bread in parchment paper, it is very rustic, but the bread should have at least been partially sliced so it would not been as messy when you break it apart with your hands. Taste wise the baguette was a delight, the crusty exterior and the doughy interior were perfect contrasting textures.
Fresh Butter with Fleur de Sel
One of my favorite things about going to high end restaurants is the quality of the butter. The butter at Cafe Boulud is molded into a cylinder and plated on a black slate, which is very aesthetic. Garnished with some Fleur de Del it is incredible. The butter is so rich and smooth it makes you wish you could have this quality of butter at every restaurant you go to.
Fried Risotto Balls
It took awhile for the amuse bouche to arrive to our table, about 30 minutes to be exact, but they were worth the wait. The amuse bouche for brunch on Sunday were fried risotto balls. These were great and tasty. The rice itself was still al dente and the cheese inside was tangy enough to cut the richness from the fat. Also, you were able to taste the sea salt that was sprinkled on top. Everyone at my table loved these and could have eaten 20 of them. This was a great start to the meal, so far I was really happy.
Famada Soup with Chorizo and Paprika Oil
About another 30 minutes later my 1st course arrived. (Service was really, really slow - food was taking way too long to get to the table and my water was empty for a good five minutes. Maybe this was because Gavin was not in house because he was in Lyon coaching James Kent and Tom Allen for the bocuse d'or). To my surprise this soup was extremely bland, maybe if there had been more chorizo it would have added the needed salt and heat, but there was only four little slivers of it. If I got this dish from anywhere it would have been a definite disappointment, and especcialy since I got it from Cafe Boulud I was shocked.
Ricotta Cheese Blintz with Roasted Apples and Whipped Sour Cream
This was the dish that my mom got and I got to taste. The apples themselve were extremely tasty - even though they were roasted they still had texture and tasted fresh. The ricotta Cheese Blintz was OK, it did not blow me away, but it tasted fine. Altogether I liked this dish, but was left wanting more.
Daniel Boulud !!!
After the first courses were cleared, you will never believe what happened. Daniel Boulud and his daughter walked into Cafe Boulud, my mouth dropped when this happened. I did not know what to do, should I call him over and try to talk to him or should I just let him enjoy his lunch with his daughter? I was able to hear my heart pounding. When he walked by my table my grandma called him over and told him how I was an aspiring culinarian. Daniel Boulud's advice was to keep on cooking and read all of the books that you can to learn as much as possible; he also said that he started cooking at the age of 14, which I knew from reading most of his books. I wanted to ask him about the bocuse d'or, but he had to go because he was very busy. I wish I got a picture of Daniel and I. He sat at the table next to me, but the front of the house station was between us, so the picture I took of him is from the reflection off a mirror. After the meal when I was walking to the car we walked passed a sun glass store and guess who was inside? Daniel Boulud!! He saw us and probably thought that we were stalking him, but maybe he will remember me if I see him again because of it.
Hanger Steak and Egg with Tomato Provencial, Pomme Puree, Spinach
After the the shock of seeing Daniel Boulud (The staff was shocked as well. The front of the house manager said that they never know when Daniel comes in, so it always puts them on edge.) my main course arrived. The beef was cooked to perfection, the pomme puree was beautifully smooth, the spinach was blanched properly, and the tomato provencial was executed with masterful precision, but everything lacked salt. The only thing on the plate that had a lot of flavor was the tomato provencial. This made me angry because you could tell everything was made perfectly, but it just needed salt.
Main Peekytoe Crab Benedict, wilted Arrow leaf Spinach, Sauce Choron
My mom's main course echoed the previous courses - properly cooked, but lacking salt. How could the cooks be forgetting salt? Was the kitchen not executing to it's fullest because Gavin was not in house? I don't know, but I was not that happy.
Molten Chocolate Cake with Coffee Ice Cream
For dessert I really wanted to get the chocolate mousse with passion fruit, but it had pistachios so I could not order it so I got the Molten Chocolate Cake with Coffee Ice Cream. The coffee ice cream was insanely good, it had a pure flavor of coffee, but I wish there was more on the plate to balance out the chocolate. The combination of the hot cake and cold ice cream is a match made in heaven, simplicity at its best. This was a good dessert, but it was not pushing any boundaries (Chocolate and Coffee is classic flavor combination).
These were very tasty, the lemon flavor was up front and vibrant. Everyone enjoyed eating these gifts from the kitchen.
After my meal I got a quick tour of the kitchen. It was a big kitchen, but not as big as Del Posto's kitchen, which was gigantiic. The kitchen was very busy, but still very organized.
The service was very friendly, but also very slow. My water was empty for awhile and the wait between courses was way too long - about 30 minutes. Maybe since Daniel Boulud showed up the servers forgot about their other customers and put all of their attention to Daniel, which makes sense because you have to make sure you impress your boss.
The experience at Cafe Boulud will always be remembered because I got to meet Chef Daniel Boulud, but the food will be forgotten. I would like to come back to Cafe Boulud for lunch or dinner when Gavin is actually there to give the food another chance. I am sure if I come back I will be blown away by the food, the kitchen probably just had an off day.
20 East 76th St., New York, NY 10021
85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011
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I'm not big on the celebrity chef thing (Boulud was there when I ate at Daniel and I wasn't eager to randomly talk to him), but the easiest way to engage in conversation and get a photo with a named chef is probably to buy their book and ask them to sign it.
Though my sample size is small, I continue to not be impressed by Boulud's food, and this review doesn't help that impression. Then again, everyone's palate is different. Did you think the food was lacking seasoning or lacking salt?
I had a similar lackluster experience for brunch at Cafe Boulud. I haven't been for lunch or dinner, but from the reviews of the main meals, I'm wondering if brunch is just an afterthought that the restaurant doesn't puch much focus/resources into.
20 East 76th St., New York, NY 10021
re: Nancy S.
Ditto this. Food is an art form too, so how would you feel if someone said, "Geez, why would anyone get excited over food? It's sooooooo boring!"
I also agree with others who have said that brunch is not the meal of choice at Cafe Boulud. I think that's true for most of the fine fine dining places in the city.
20 East 76th St., New York, NY 10021