I had dinner at Cafe Boulud recently. It met my expectations (ever-so-slightly below fairly good), and the service was generally good.
The amuses were (1) a foie gras tartlette that, interestingly, had foie in an almost liquid (not actually) state in the mouth, and (2) a deep-fried ball of risotto (very recently deep-fried).
I selected my appetizer from the Vietnamese/Asian section of the current menu. It was Beef Soup (Pho) with saw leaf, chili and herbs ($15). I had previously thought I would shy away from beef, but I couldn't resist the thought of sampling pho at Cafe Boulud. The pho broth was appropriate, as were the noodles, and not that different from the better phos I have had. What was interesting was the replacement of thin slices of beef normally found in the basic pho construction with more substantial, thicker pieces of beef (perhaps braised and possibly brisket-like, although I am not sure about the cut). Instead of the typical hoi sin/chili sauces on the side combination, there was chili sauce and also fleur de sel on the side. The lime slices offered were helpful to the dish. Overall, this was almost fairly good.
My entree was Smoked Long Island Duck, Savoy Cabbage, Turnip, Orange-Pepper Sauce ($33). I asked for my duck slightly on the rare side of medium rare, and it came out that way (unusual for roast duck, but to my liking). The duck was nicely smoked, and there was particular smokiness in the flavor in the skin. Appropriate thin layer of fat below the skin. The savoy cabbage was nicely presented in the form of a little packet, wrapping shredded cooked cabbage and softened duck shreds inside. It was quite flavorful. The turnips were appropriate too, and the shape of them as a sort of bean/rounded crescent item was not inappropriate. The area of improvement in the dish, for me, was the unduly strong sensation of orange in the orange-pepper sauce. The pepper component needs to be stronger, and the orange rendered slightly more interesting relative to the classic orange-based preparation of duck. I appreciate the intent might have been to offset the orange with the smoky sensations of the duck, but the orange still needs to be further suppressed for my tastes.
Our dining party did not order dessert. In my case, that has increasingly been my choice in the US where dessert is not included (regardless of restaurant). However, I found the freshly baked mini madelaines nicely executed, and the mignardises to be appropriate. A piece that had the flavor of pink bubble gum was surprising (in a good way).
The meal was very reasonably priced, at under $400 for a party of five before tips. Two of the dining party do not drink, and the remainder of us took in wine by the glass.
The dining room team assistance was generally good, except for a non-sommelier dining room team member who, when I asked where the Daniel house label champagne hailed from (thinking the answer would be Epernay, Rheims, etc.), indicated Champagne, France; I would hope so, otherwise, it would be inappropriate to call it Champagne, although that confusion is not uncommon in the US). The sommelier team seemed stronger than on prior visits.