The dining world in New York City was dealt a shocking blow when, in June this year, acclaimed chef David Bouley announced that his eponymous restaurant is closing and relocating to a smaller space that can fit only 20-25 people at a time. I was particularly saddened to learn of this development, as the restaurant’s romantic dining room has been one of the most iconic (and romantic) spaces in the sensibility of New York dining. While I have previously visited Bouley before for a weekend lunch, I haven’t had a chance to experience the magical charm of the space during dinner time, so I figured I need to make a visit here before it is gone. I got even sadder following a wonderful dinner with my girlfriend on a recent Friday night.
There are two options for dinner at Bouley: three course prix fixe for $135 per person or six course tasting menu for $195 per person. We opted for the former and decided to share all of the dishes. Bouley has long been synonymous with the elegance of classic French food, and the thoughtfulness in preparing the dishes is evident throughout your meal. Porcini flan consisting of Alaskan Dungeness crab and black truffle dashi was absolutely magnificent with the balance of flavor that displays plenty of richness but somehow is not heavy. Forager’s Treasure of wild mushrooms was also a delicious start to the meal. With all the nouveau French trends happening everywhere in the world, the food at Bouley may seem a bit anachronistic. I would say, instead, that the food here actually transcends time and there is something very enduring about the dishes.
Black sea bass with green and yellow summer squash and bergamot-scallion dressing is a dish that doesn’t look much different from other fancy sea bass dishes elsewhere, but the way the perfectly cooked fish works harmoniously with the squash will tell you Bouley is not just another fine dining establishment. The simple preparation of organic Long Island duck couldn’t have been cooked better, and the moment a piece of the meat entered my mouth with einkorn grain and hand milled polenta was pure joy that made me fall in love with this dish instantly. The opulence of French cuisine is perhaps not more evident than in dessert sections, and here Bouley doesn’t play safe either, starting with the wonderfully refreshing chilled coconut soup with pine apple granite and amaretto ice cream. I was slightly underwhelmed by the millefeuille of puff pastry vanilla ice cream, but the chocolate molten cake with Colombian coffee gelato was pure decadence, and the complementary dessert from the kitchen consisting of fresh wild blueberries, white chocolate and lemon verbena was delightfully sweet without overpowering my palate.
I didn’t realize that the restaurant also has a basement space that is more intimate than the main dining room above, and was glad to be seated downstairs. There is full bar at the restaurant; I would recommend starting with a cocktail before indulging in a bottle of French wine that would work very nicely with the food. As always, the service of professionally dressed staff here is first-class. As I walked out of the restaurant, I kept wondering what would happen to all the apples displayed on the entrance. Is this really the end of an era? In a way it certainly is, but I hope that chef Bouley can come back stronger than ever once he moves to a new space. What a shame this beautiful space will soon disappear from the consciousness of New York diners…
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
Address: 163 Duane Street, New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 964-2525