I went to Upstairs at Bouley with my boyfriend tonight fully expecting a night full of good food and lots of hassle. Fortunately, the night lived up to expectations food-wise, but not hassle-wise. My boyfriend and I arrived around 9:00 and were told that there would be a half hour wait. We were told to wait inside the Bouley Market section, where we could hang our coats with the attendant, grab a glass of wine from a waiter, and, if we were really starving, order a pastry from the many selections on dispaly in the market. Though I was tempted by the pastries in the market, I did not succumb. With a glass of wine and the mellow atmosphere of the market, the half hour wait passed by pretty effortlessless.
Within the half hour predicted, we were seated. We got an unfortunate seat--one of the four middle two-tops in the restaurant. These tables are not separated one from the other, so we were often locking elbows with our neighbors. Fortunately, everyone respected each other's boundaries, so this was only a minor inconvenience.
We began with a basket of Bouley's famous bread, including a tomato bread, a pistacio and hazelnut loaf, and an onion bread, all delicious. As an appetizer, I ordered a wild mushroom salad, which was topped with a truffle oil dressing and a few slivers of parmesan cheese. This generously proportioned and rich appetizer gave a whole new meaning to salads to me. My boyfriend ordered the calamari salad. The calamari were deliciously cooked on the restaurant's plancha--toothsome but not at all chewy. The salad also included some pieces of avocado, tomato, bibb lettuce, and various other greens. He was very happy.
I wanted to order the halibut as my main, but the restaurant had run out. I opted for the scallops instead. My only regret of the evening was that the scallops also came with wild mushrooms, which I, a HUGE mushroom lover, had already had my fill of in the appetizer. In any event, I was still very happy with my choice. These were not the best scallops I've ever had, but they were very good and original. They had been textured (by a butcher's mallet?) and flavored with ginger and coconut milk, which gave them an interesting taste. The scallops were served with slightly shrivelled peas, in addition to the wonderful mushrooms. My boyfriend ordered the sirloin, which he really enjoyed. The sirloin was topped with raisins, currants, and pepper, and served with green beans and potatoes. The sauce was infused with cognac.
Although the portions at Upstairs are generous, I couldn't do without dessert. I had heard underwhelming reviews of the desserts, but I was very happy with mine, a strawberry jam, chestnut, and cream concoction from the market downstairs. As a bonus, I got two mini-scoops of rose water ice cream.
Overally, I highly recommend a visit to Upstairs. The food was top-notch, and the prices (under $130 for 3 glasses of wine, 2 apps, 2 entrees, 1 dessert, 1 coffee, and tax and tap) were not. I will be back, next time perhaps for the sushi bar selections.
Upstairs at Bouely, 130 W Broadway, 212-608-5829
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