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Cafe Boulud, Aquavit, A Voce-- part 1

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Restaurants & Bars

Cafe Boulud, Aquavit, A Voce-- part 1

Dbird | Mar 18, 2006 06:58 PM

I meant to make this a short report on three happiness this week but as I come to the end of my first report realize that I will need to break it out into separate posts. Herewith no. 1:

Cafe Boulud:
Wednesday evening met my vegetarian friend for dinner after RGR and others proposed it might be more accommodating than Eleven Madison (when I phoned, I was told EM couldn't do a veg. tasting and didn't suggest they could be otherwise accommodating). This was my first time to CB in a couple years, for no reason other than that I don't usually dine uptown, and generally think of the place as staid--sometimes exactly what I seek, but not often. I am happy to report that I found the whole experience perfectly delightful and correct without being mechanical--which brought to mind again my very different response to Bouley which I had also recently revisited after a similar hiatus and found as perfunctory and generally unimpressive as I had remembered. But I digress.

I arrived after my friend had been seated and was asked if I wished a cocktail. My kir royale appeared almost immediately and was as perfect as I had already trusted it would be by ordering without specifying the measure of cassis, or asking the champagne, as I have learned to do from disappointing experience. We were catching up after a long time & it took us a while to order. The server checked in several times but never pressed. I ordered the butter poached lobster and on the server's suggestion chose the hamachi rather than the shrimp tempura to start. I rather wish I had chosen the shrimp, not because the hamachi wasn't good but because I realize I generally like hamachi and other raw fish as plain sashimi better than in any other preparation, and often enjoy exploring deeper notes of shellfish on shellfish (or sweetbreads on veal, or steak tartare and steak frites) as much as more conventional counterpoint between or within courses. The lobster was a fine dish and quite restrained for all its lush ingredients. Actually more restrained than I had expected after having butter poached spiny tails for the past few years-- it is a superb method but the result is very different for American lobster and I was somehow not expecting this. All of which is to imply no criticism of the preparations which were technically unimpeachable but rather to note some of the process of discovery they engendered.

My friend ordered the boconccini salad followed by the ricotta gnocchi with truffles. Bless her appetite which expired after a few bites of the gnocchi. I behaved scandalously and reached with my own fork to spear at least half of her remaining dish which was just delirious (or was that I?) with truffles.

Following my kir I had a gruner on the recommendation of the chef. I love gruners but a chardonnay might have been a better choice for my lay-it-on mood (it was not a smaragd). She had 'another cabernet' with her gnocchi and the server was unflinchingly polite.

My only complaint is that I finished my slice of pumpkin seed bread with unseemly haste and was not offered another at any point throughout the meal.

I've written more about my own responses than the dishes themselves but allow that I am more expert in the former than the latter. We had a wonderful time and a meal that made her wish she lived in NYC and me even more glad that I do.

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