Monday, September 24, 2007

Bouley

In the ever more crowded pantheon of Manhattans culinary scene there are a few star performers that consistently distinguish themselves over their peers by providing command performances. A recent sampling of the tasting menu at Bouley confirms that it deserves its reputation as one of the brightest stars in NYC.


The phyllo crusted shrimp, baby squid, scallop and Maryland crabmeat in an "ocean" herbal broth was utterly exquisite, the combination of textures and flavors was just about perfect.

Return from Chiang Mai

A terrine of chilled Maine lobster, mango, artichoke wrapped in Serrano ham with a passion fruit, fresh coconut and tamarind dressing. A delightful combination, the flavors perfectly matching each other, the salty ham and buttery lobster was complimented by the sweet and sour flavors of the sauce.


The Sashimi quality tuna was delectable, tender wonderfully seasoned it was accompanied by a shaved fennel dressed in herb oils, it literally melted in ones mouth.

The wild salmon


The 21 day dry aged USDA prime NY strip was tender and succulent although it was not quite the equal of what you will find at a top steakhouse. Certainly it was rare as ordered but it lacked the charred crust that steak lovers expect It was also quite expensive for the $40 supplemental price it added to the tasting menu. For the somewhat meager portion size one would expect domestic Kobe style beef, indeed I was expecting American Kobe as the menu on the restaurants website indicated as such. Frankly the rest of the tasting menu is so wonderful for the regular price, despite the lack of beef, that even the Beef Aficionado can heartily recommend it.

Squab stuffed with Foi Gras.

Sorbet

Hot Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé, perhaps a little too hot as the ice cream was rather melted by the time it made it to the table. Never the less it was decadently sumptuous dish.

What a pleasure it is to dine at Bouley. Certainly the cost is relatively high but when food reaches this level of expertise it transcends price. The dining room is tastefully ornate although some might argue effete, I am reminded of the line from film American Psycho - "this is a chick restaurant." The service is, as Frank Bruni noted somewhat schizophrenic. The waiters and floor manager posses the prim, aloof air that one expects of food at this level. They may be curt but they are efficient, conversely the servers seem more like catering school trainees, struggling to recount what is on the plate they are placing in front of you. Bruni experienced the appearance of the unrequested check. So did I, it is an odd, but apparently deliberate, change in tradition.

If you subscribe to the idea that dining on this level is "theater" then there are some minor missteps on the part of the supporting cast. Of course the star of the show is the food and here there are no qualms about the performance, it is virtuoso.

Bouley
120 W. Broadway
(Duane St.)
Manhattan, NY
212-964-2525

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