Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bouley - Sensational Food At A (Little TOO) Leisurely Pace

I have been having some exceptional meals lately. The other night, H(usband) was invited to a dinner at Bouley to honor a long-serving colleague and I got to go too!!!

The company was superb; we were with some really convivial folks, but the food and the setting were pretty great too. There were a few glitches, though, which I’ll get to.

We walked into the restaurant through a small entryway that was covered - wall to ceiling - with small niches. Sitting in each one was a fresh apple. Their scent was unmistakable and mostly very pleasant. In the apples' defense, it WAS nearing the end of the week.

The dining room was stunning with its golden vaulted ceilings, gilded candelabras and heavily draped windows and framed art.

Look at this picture. Our table was the one at the end, in front of the window with planters filled with fresh gorgeous flowers. One clever diner in our group actually asked for the attractive, but view-blocking, candelabra to be removed, so that the folks across the table were visible. Wise move.

There were many servers per table, which I love. I appreciate the choreography of plates being set down at the same time. Plus there was not even a hint that any plate would be removed before all had finished - my number one pet peeve.

I started a trend (at our table, at least) by ordering an apple martini with green apple purée, vodka and apple liqueur. Delicious and potent.

We were served an amuse, beautifully presented in a martini glass. It was a thick purée of chilled melon soup, with a moist and flavorful chunk of smoked trout hiding on the bottom of the glass, topped with crème fraiche and a green apple purée.

The smoked trout was a revelation served with the melon soup. The soup soothed the salty taste and rough texture of the fish and the crème fraiche and green apple purée added richness and a hint of tartness to the whole machination. Really special.

What was NOT special, however, was WHEN the amuse was served. We had barely looked at our menus when the (many) servers came through with these potentially clumsy delicate glasses that needed to be placed down just so. It meant menus had to be gotten out of the way quickly and held on one’s lap, WHILE we lapped up what was in the glass. Very strange.

I’m trying to remember if most little tastes from the kitchen are sent out BEFORE one orders. Whatever...I have never had the experience of whisking my menu off the table so something could be served. And THIS was Bouley.

Great bread.

My starter included an organic Connecticut farm egg set on a bed of polenta. The egg was cooked to perfection with a beautifully runny yolk and not a hint of gooey white. It must have been a most petite chicken, though, judging from the diminutive egg. The Serrano ham - ham royalty as far as I’m concerned - was a wonderful foil to the egg.

H’s North Carolina Pink Shrimp, Cape Cod Sea Scallops, Sweet Maine Princess Crab, Point Judith Calamari in an Ocean Herbal Broth was gorgeous.

The shrimp and scallop were perfectly cooked and the broth was light and flavorful.

I wished I had tasted more of H’s Maine Day Boat Lobster with “early rhubarb, English peas, chervil sauce, parsnip cloud”. The more than ample amount of lobster was moist and fresh, but I neglected to grab some of the rhubarb. Darn!

I ordered my Long Island Duckling rare. And I didn’t just mumble “rare”; I said it with conviction. I do often say, "REALLY RARE - STILL QUACKING," but I didn't say that here. I should have.

It WAS rare, but barely, and, to me, every second away from raw is a second closer to tough. The flavor was fantastic, but the texture was just not there. And I didn’t realize until this very second that I had completely forgotten to taste the tiny oval bowl of potato purée set at the top of my place setting. I feel gypped!

Coffee and dessert were ordered. Coffee was served and then…NOTHING. Nothing happened for a REALLY long time, long enough that it was noticeable. And a table of eight notices fewer lapses in service than when dining à deux, so you know it really must have been a long wait.

FINALLY, this gorgeous strawberry and rhubarb purée comes out, topped with quenelle-shaped frozen organic yogurt. Delicious, BUT it had obviously been sitting out too long, because the yogurt was melting into the strawberry/rhubarb mixture. THIS wasn’t the dessert we ordered, it was a little something sweet for each diner.

At last, the few desserts that were ordered were delivered. Again, the ice creams were melting (melted in some cases) indicating that the desserts had not been served promptly. WHY WAS THAT? There were plenty of plate-delivering folks around. The long wait for dessert and the resulting deficiencies were inexplicable. But I must say my dessert was more than worth the wait.

I love flan, so the Amaretto Flan was a real winner. Just firm enough to hold a beautiful shape, but still smooth and luscious without a hint of rubbery-ness. Oh, and the flavor! What is a warmer and more delicious flavor than Amaretto? (Nothing!) And it went perfectly with the (melting) ice creams – one, maple syrup flavored and the other, a white coffee mousse amaretto ice cream with a hint of the toasty kernel of the almond.

This was such a special meal with great people and mostly flawless food. So what if we had to navigate our melon purée with menus on our laps! Who cares if the duck wasn’t quacking (well, I did actually) and the ice cream wasn’t frozen and there was a huge gap in the service at the end? BUT the cooking was spectacular, and, in the end, that’s what came across.

We exited the restaurant on a very positive note. We were each handed a small white shopping bag with the most delicious lemon pound cake. THIS was a REAL buttery pound cake that leaves traces of its major ingredient all over your hands as you cut a piece. AND it was packed in a nifty cellophane bag with a sticky seal that actually worked.

The cake was heaven and the best part? I didn’t have to wait for it to be served.


Java Joggers said...

Very fancy :)

Sue said...

That's me!!! I mean, "That is I!"

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Oh wow, wow and triple wow. I want to go to Bouley. I don't know what I'd order. I loved all those choices.

Sue said...

Hi Linda,
The menu is really fantastic. I love it when there are so many great things that I can't decide what to order.