Last night my partner and I had a great meal at Bouley - our first there. We haven't done the rounds of the "big name" NYC restaurants, so we can't compare our experience to those. But between us, we've been to quite a few good restaurants around the country, and this was by far one of our best meals ever.
It was a special occasion (milestone birthday) so I was a bit nervous about how it would go after all the Bouley-bad-press on this board. But I've been wanting to try it for ages so decided to take the risk.
From what I've gathered on the board, what people have really complained about is the service at Bouley. I would say that the service was just ok for a place of this caliber - I've definitely experienced better. It lacked warmth, and there was a moment when I got definite 'tude in answer to a question. But since no egregious incidents occurred, and mostly they cleared things away in time and didn't rush us, it was fine. I'm sure people on this board expect a little more than "ok" service when paying that much and I totally agree. But my conclusion is that, unless you go on a holiday or really late or something, you'll probably escape anything bad enough to interfere with your evening.
The décor – I’ve read mixed reviews on the “red room” – which is where we were seated. I thought it was quite cozy and I was sort of mesmerized by the scalloped ceiling. But I can see that it might be a little intense for some tastes. If you prefer a minimalist or modern/industrial décor, this is probably not for you.
Now for the real star - the FOOD. Oh god, those potatoes. Others here have raved about that fingerling puree they bring you but I had no idea you could DO that with potatoes. In retrospect, they had to have been sprinkled with crack.
We both did the tasting menu. The other standout item that I got was the appetizer with the scallop and Florida shrimp. WOW. I would recommend this over the tuna - my partner got that and he was definitely envying my plate. The scallop was *perfectly* done - and if you're a scallop lover you know how hard that is to find. The tangy sauce and the smoky seafood blended perfectly and I lapped up every drop.
The rest is kind of a haze of deliciousness. I got the rouget, partner got the salmon and I think the salmon was better. We both got the Colorado lamb and it was incredible (though I was amazed to find it upstaged by the potatoes). The desserts were lovely, but even better was the little litchi ice cream and raspberry granita treat they brought us. It was so refreshing after that intense meal.
All in all, the meal was superb and exceeded my expectations. The décor was suitably romantic, and the service, while nothing special, did not detract from the experience. And the food, the food. I’m still dreaming about it.