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Oct 21, 2012 12:15 PM

Cafe Boulud

As there's been so little mention so far on this board of the Cafe Boulud in the new Four Seasons Hotel at Bay and Yorkville, I thought I'd post a few comments of my own following a dinner I had their last night with an old friend of mine.

Cafe Boulod is clearly more than just a "cafe", but it's not aiming to be "fine dining". either.The room itself has a fairly utilitarian look about it with bare wooden tables with place mats and fairly simple chairs. However, it has a high roof and is open on one side, so it has an spacious and airy feeling to it and the noise level I found very acceptable, Mercifully, the music is very much in the background.

I took our waiter's suggestion and had the octopus "a la plancha" ($19) for my starter. It was pleasant but I couldn't say much more than that about it. I was much more enthusiastic about my main course, the roasted Ontario veal loin ($32). It was juicy and the proper shade of light pink. The accompanying vegetables - spinach and carrots - had been carefully cooked and a creamy polenta, served in a little covered copper pot, came as a side. Both starter and main were served in these large, white rimmed bowls which seem to be all over the place these days. For desert I had an apple cake ($11). It was pretty to look at with the cake surrounded by matchsticks of apple, little blobs of something green and some ginger ice cream but I thought the apple flavour of the cake itself was a little subdued. We finished with coffee ($5).

As for drinks, I started with a martini ( Grey Goose but $!9!). We then shared a bottle of beaujolais ($56). With food, drinks, tax and a 15% tip the total was $140 per person.

I happen to live in the neighbourhood, so for me it's a pleasant addition to the local restaurants but I don't see it as more than that.

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  1. Gina Mallet of the National Post just reviewed it and boy was it a doozie. She gave it zero stars.

    13 Replies
      1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

        And she may be right. In Paris, everything was good; in Toronto nothing was good. Just more show. Her Parisian restaurant had nowhere near the self articulated claims for itself nor the expense.
        It seems that Toronto has blahed even Boulud.

      2. re: Flexitarian

        I feel like, if Cafe Boulud was a couch then Gina Mallet's Rick James with muddy shitkickers.

          1. re: themiguel

            I do not like Gina Mallet. I don't think she knows much about food. I rarely read her column. I think it's grossly unfair of someone to review a restaurant two weeks after its opening. (Which means she ate there in its first ten days in order to get her review in.)

            However, I did make the somewhat irresponsible decision to choose Cafe Boulud for our anniversary dinner on Friday night. We had a mediocre meal that I won't go into detail over since I think it's wrong to review a restaurant -- anywhere -- at this stage of its existence.

            What I will discuss is the abominably fast service. We were in and out of there in 45 minutes! (We chose not to have dessert.) This does not make for an enjoyable, leisurely dining experience. Our mains were in front of us about four minutes after our appetizer plates had been cleared. This is probably a welcomed time frame for business lunches, but not for dinner.

            1. re: Tatai

              .< I think it's grossly unfair of someone to review a restaurant two weeks after its opening.>

              Sorry but I have to disagree..This is Daniel Boulud(world class restaurateur/Chef) we're talking about here,not some newbie opening up a restaurant.If he's not ready to open the day they're willing to take my $$$$,they shouldn't open.Let them(and anyone else who decides to open a restaurant) iron out the "kinks" on their own dime!!

              And how about your mediocre meal? Is that acceptable after being open for a few weeks,or are you willing to let them sort things out and give em another chance?

              1. re: petek

                I have to agree. And, um, what is it we do on here? Review restaurants the day they open, muse about them endlessly before they even open, etc. Sure, she has a wider audience but if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen! (sorry about that ;)

                1. re: Tatai

                  Another comment on the review after 2 weeks issue:
                  If they're charging full price - then it's fair game! If they discount for a couple of weeks, then NOT fair to review.
                  However, in principle, I think EVERY restaurant deserves two visits (or more) before reviewing!

                  Hence my not posting after my meal - although given this discussion, I don't have a problem commenting now after only one meal.

                  It's 'just OK' - Competent food without being exceptional - some dishes worked better than others. Currently not worth the prices charged.

                  Having said that there were a couple of wines at OK prices - although most had far-too-high mark-ups (higher than Momofuku).
                  Also the pace was certainly rather fast - about 80 minutes for me (but including dessert). But the ambiance wasn't bad - certainly didn't have the frantic 'noise' of many places - I could hear myself think.

                  But overall - not worth a detour!

                  1. re: estufarian

                    I completely agree, if the restaurant is not ready 100% by the time it opens then why charge its customers full price.

                  2. re: Tatai

                    It doesn't sound like a kinky problem. It is not that had been inconsistent. The problem is that they were consistently blah.

                    Boloud does have experience and should know when a plate of food is ready for prime time.

            2. Another review that I just read, not a great one but at least a few stars:)

              8 Replies
              1. re: elasticwaistband

                A mediocre review from dineTO is bad. They charge the resto money for them to come review them

                1. re: LexiFirefly

                  Amy Pataki review up today. Can't find a link, sorry!

                  1. re: LexiFirefly

                    What makes you think that this review is "Paid for" even if that is DineTO's policy there is no way Boulud woudl pay someone to review him.

                    1. re: pourboi

                      They only do full reviews on a restaurant if you buy their advertising packages. Otherwise it's just a blurb on hours and such.

                      1. re: LexiFirefly

                        Except for the fact that they are not even mentioned on exept for the review... all "Sponsored" restaurants have thier logos down the side... Boulud is not there..

                        I think Mr. Vernon just wanted a meal at Boulud on's dime...

                2. I enjoyed a quick lunch there. The decor seemed a bit off but serving staff were nice enough (even to us unwashed, although we didn't realize our fellow diners were judging us). Food was nicely prepared - not overly seasoned. We had the crispy duck egg, roast beet salad and the steak au poivre (medium rare).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Yimahaji

                    Had dinner Saturday before a concert at the RCM and enjoyed it -- look forward to going back when in the neighbourhood. I quite enjoyed the crispy duck egg with mushrooms and confit duck app and the sea bream with romesco sauce main. I would rank it with Nota Bene or Bymark -- not spectacular, would not go out of my way to go there, but pleased with what they offer.

                  2. We had brunch at Boulud on Sunday. I had the Cumbrae farms' veal loin, w/ sweetbreads and braised short ribs, which was absolutely exceptional. My SO, on the other hand, had the Eggs benedict... featuring ham (seriously), and home fries. Her dish could have honestly come from any diner in the city - the contrast between the dishes was astounding. I don't think it could have been more dramatic. The hollandaise was bland, overly buttery, and not nearly tart enough, nor seasoned properly - the eggs were over-cooked (the eggs should always be runny, unless you specify otherwise - these were hard), and the entire plate was pretty much the same colour - little garnish to be found. Deserts, however, were delicious as always.

                    So perhaps brunch is highly dependent on what one orders...?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: justxpete

                      I think the safest thing is just to go for dessert. What would be perfect would be for them to offer CB desserts downstairs at the bar...

                    2. I think what is most telling is the artwork on the walls by Mr Brainwash (see "Exit through the gift shop"). Dinner was nothing to complain about and nothing to rave about. It was completely generic fine dining. I wouldn't be able to tell these dishes from those at Bymark.

                      Dinner worked out to $150 pp with tip and at this price it is in the George, Bymark, Splendido etc. bracket. At least some of these other restaurants offers some sort of "wow" factor; inventive presentation, a unique pairing which stands out as a match made in heaven, dishes that showcase the quality of the ingredients, or some preparation that stays in your mind as the ultimate way of having said ingredient.

                      The octopus was a competent dish but not much different from octopus at most other joints. In other words, there was nothing to lift this dish from ordinary to extraordinary. The rather tasteless arugula on top would have looked and tasted better if it was dressed.

                      The swordfish was cooked rare - medium rare but then cut into three pieces so that by the time the plate is plated and arrives at the table, the fish is cold. I understand cutting a tough cut of meat against the grain and presenting it as such. But cutting this fish into pieces for no reason other than presentation and it the process having it cold, is a bad idea.

                      The apple tatin was competent but nowhere near the richness or caramelization of the one I had a Frank AGO many moons ago.

                      Overall a lacklustre meal. Can't say I'll be back.