Having been to a wonderful meal at Cafe Boulud in the past, I was really excited to see them on the list for NYC Restaurant week . For $25, you get a 3 course prix fix meal at a restaurant that is normally rather astronomically priced. My grandmother lives right around the corner which makes it an ideal spot for a family get together. I’d made a reservation for 6 people a week prior, and called the morning of our lunch to change it to 7 people. I was given a rather odd response of, “We don’t take parties larger than 6 people. Did you already invite the 7th?” When I explained that it was a family gathering and we’d all be coming, she still said it wasn’t something they do. I went on further to say that we are a very petite family and didn’t mind squishing a bit, she went to ask the manager and finally came back with an ‘ok’.
When we arrived and were seated, the bread tray with 3 choices was brought around. The butter roll, the plain roll and sourdough bread. I decided to try all 3 of them and it’s a good thing because It’s basically what ended up making me feel full by the end of our meal. The breads were very good, but nothing to write home about. Next, an amuse-bouche of fried truffle/risotto balls were given to us. Though they were crispy, warm and melty, I couldn’t taste the truffle at all, and they were pretty unremarkable.
I shared all 3 courses with my boyfriend so that we could taste more of what they were offering. We started with the arugula salad with quince and bacon, as well as the fluke carpaccio with jalapeno. The salad was a bit over-dressed for my liking, and it was pretty boring. Just because it’s unique to use quince on top, does not make this interesting enough to win any prizes. The fluke, however, was marvelous. The flavoring of fennel and hot peppers brightened the dish and awakened the mild fish. This was the most noteworthy dish of the day.
For our first entrée we shared the winter squash ravioli with pecans, brown butter and sage. It was sweet and rich, but honestly, I didn’t think it was any more gourmet than the frozen ravioli you can buy from Fresh Direct. Our other entrée, the grouper, was a complete disaster. When I order fish at a high-end restaurant, I expect it to be exquisitely cooked and seasoned. This piece was so over-salted that it was a disaster. Did the chef accidentally spill the salt on top? The collard greens that came with it were also over-seasoned, not to mention cooked into to a soggy pile of mush. It was really kind of awful. I could not eat it and informed the waitress as such. What a disappointment.
The dessert course, as is often the case, redeemed the meal’s shortcomings. We were given a molten chocolate cake for the middle of the table (presumably because of my fish-complaint) and it was delicious. Crusty outer layer and hot, melty, rich interior. A perfect scoop of vanilla bean ice cream sat alongside it making for a lovely presentation. I will never tire of molten chocolate for dessert, passe as it may be. We also shared the chocolate mousse with pear compote and hazelnut ice cream. It came enrobed in a dark chocolate ganache layer and the inside was creamy and decadent, with the pears as a lovely unexpected touch. Finally, I moved on to the butterscotch gateaux with marscapone and devil’s food. YUM. It had little crispy bits on the cake and it was impossible to not finish it in 30 seconds flat. By then, even though we were totally stuffed but the waiter came by with little buckets of mini Madeleines and we managed to make a little bit more tummy space for them. Worth every confectioner’s sugar topped bite.
Overall, this meal was a let down. My expectations were high, true, but that’s because I’ve had such great experiences there in the past. I feel that the patrons who order from the restaurant week menu do not really get a fair representation of what Boulud can do. Not only was the food only so-so, the portions were so itsy bitsy tiny that if I hadn’t indulged in all 3 types of bread and all of the extra desserts, I would have left still feeling very hungry. That’s not the way it should be at all! At their regular prices, this may be my last visit to Cafe Boulud.