For the big 3-0, I knew I was in for a celebratory dinner. I just didn't know where. So I was very pleased when our cab turned south and deposited us in front of Bouley, one of the top spots on my "to-eat" list. I love the big wooden door and the scent of apples that greets you when you open it: they're stacked in crates on the floor and on shelves along the entranceway.
The service throughout the meal was impeccable, the atmosphere cozy but elegant. So that said, I'll just skip straight to the food.
I take it Bouley is known for its breads, and we weren't disappointed. We started with an apple-raisin roll and a harder, cylindrical roll. Then the bread cart came around, with the choice of 10 or so breads. We got the fig and the walnut-saffron. So tasty.
Then to start, a taste from the chef: grapefruit three ways. Fresh sections, granite, and foam. Maybe more of a summer flavor, but it was refreshing and bracing.
I had the braised hamachi appetizer, which is one of the best things I've ever eaten. The hamachi had a wonderful melting texture, and was paired with an odd-sounding but delicious foam/sauce of cavaillon melon, hon-shimeji mushrooms and ginger. My fiance chose the sashimi-tuna starter, which had a great crunchy fennel garnish.
We weren't very original for the main course, both opting for the organic duck with braised endive. The duck was tender and tasty, with some sort of sweet sauce. They brought a side of potato puree, obviously loaded with butter and so good.
Then the dessert extravaganza! The pre-dessert dessert was a concord grape soup with some sort of creamy ice cream in the center. This was really essence of concord grape, intense and delicious. I ordered the caramel "chiboust," a sort of meringue-tart with a plum center and a side of heady prune-armagnac ice cream. My fiance had the chocolate "frivolous," with various (generously-sized) chocolate tastes including a chocolate creme brulee.
Unbeknownst to me, my fiance had arranged for a birthday treat as well. He wasn't sure what it would entail, so that's why we ordered two desserts. But it was a full other dessert! So we gorged ourselves on a mini chocolate soufflee with three types of ice cream. The candle was cleverly anchored in a raspberry. To top it all off, everyone was brought a fruit & cream parfait to accompany their desserts. Then to top off the top, a plate of cookies arrive. And when Bouley sends you out the door, it does so with a wrapped lemon tea cake. Whew!
A quick mention of the wine -- Flowers 2004(?), a smooth and excellent Pinot Noir from Sonoma.
Really an exquisite meal. I know it's been written about many times on the board, so just another voice recommending it...