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Manhattan Dinner

confused after dinner at Bouley...

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confused after dinner at Bouley...

Rick Elkins | Mar 3, 2002 09:21 PM

Well, my wife and I had Sunday night dinner at Bouley, and I'm not sure what to think.

It was our 3rd dinner there over the last couple of years, and we were looking forward to it, as we have had great experiences the last two times. The fact that Bouley himself would be in the kitchen only increased our anticipation.

We both found the new look quite attractive. When you first walk in the door (the door from his older place) you experience shelves of apples which are both beautiful and fragrant. After an extremely warm welcome, we were shown to our seats, and I must say there was none of the confusion regarding reservations that others have reported here.

We both decided to go for the prix fixe menu, which we have had on our previous visits, and were familiar with some of the choices.

But with each dish brought to the table, our confusion grew. Why were the tastes so subdued? In the past, the lamb was the essence of lamb flavor, the scallops sang of the sea, the sauces provided vivid counterpoints. But now, every thing was a bit timid. Nothing was exactly wrong with the food, but it wasn't very exciting either. Attractive plating, good textures, but a lack of the flavors that had previously made us fans.

By the time we got to the fruit soup with sorbet, we were trying to decide what had happened to the place. We were very pleased with the soup, as it was as delicious as ever, and the chocolate soufflé brought us to the same nirvana as on other visits (and although most of the ice creams served with it were excellent, the prune armagnac ice cream was a pale shadow of its former self).

But we wondered if the rest of the dinner's blandness was perhaps due to a belief that this was what people wanted? Or has Bouley lost his best support staff, as trouble was reported in the Times. Or is this the version of Bouley's food that Chef Bouley himself favors? Or is it possible that every single dish for two people (we had different dishes, too) up to the soup were the result of an "off" night?

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