120 West Broadway on Duane Street
$175 for the tasting menu with wine pairings, without tip
â™¥ â™¥ â™¥ â™¥
There comes a time in your life when you have an awesome meal with good company and you think back the next day without regrets because you realize you deserve everything. Unfortunately for me, I think that way 80% of the time, but I recently read that desire is never a mistake. For my birthday this year, my good friend Miriam and her fiancÃ©, Eric, showed me that you have to allow yourself to want things, even if that means a lot of them. And boy, Bouley was the perfect place for it.
The night started off with the scent of apples in the foyer. Ever since I stepped in Bouley a couple of years ago to check out the menu, I have known that smell. It’s of the holidays, of cider, and of something warm and cozy inside. The small bar at the receptionist’s counter was a different matter. Our table was for 8pm, but it seemed like the entire New York Japanese population was also waiting to be seated. It had been drizzling outside and the coat check lady was flustered with requests from customers who have already eaten and from customers waiting to be relieved of their coats. We started afresh as soon as we were seated in the dining room.
The ambiance reminded me of Daniel and Le Bernardin, though it isn’t as expansive as Daniel’s and the crowd around us was less older than that of Le Bernardin’s. The jacquard chairs and the tassels on the lamps belong more in Versailles than the TriBeCa neighborhood this incarnation now stands, but you know to expect that the food will be as polished and refined as any old New York institution.
Below is a list of what I ate with their wine pairings:
1. Phyllo-crusted Florida shrimp, Cape Cod baby squid, scuba-dived sea scallop and sweet Maryland crab meat in ocean herbal broth with Pouilly FumÃ© Domaine Lebrun 2006
Restaurants need to cook shellfish more this way: you don’t have to force the meat; they just give. The baby squid was a spoonful of tenderness that softly went “squish” in my mouth.
2. Potato-crusted Mediterranean rouget with a mung bean saffron risotto, rose-olive sauce and Parmesan cloud with Viognier, Alban Vineyards, Edna Valley, California 2006
The potato gave the fish texture and the olive sauce gave it a bit of tart that harmoniously fused with the delicate touch of cheese. I could have enjoyed this even without the very yellow risotto. Extra points for calling the cheese a “cloud”.
3. Organic Pennsylvania rack of lamb baked with rocket salad, fava beans, sage and a purÃ©e of zucchini and mint with Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine des Vins de Vienne, Rhone Valley 2005
The best of all the racks I’ve had this year mainly because I wasn’t inebriated by the time this course was served. I thoroughly enjoyed the juiciness of the meat and couldn’t have enough. The touch of zucchini-mint was just right. The greens wonderfully matched. Just like the risotto with the rouget, I could have done without the gnocchi.
4. Texas pink grapefruit soup infused with green cardamon, star anise and Tahitian vanilla with Campari sugar and fromage blanc sorbet with Moscato Dâ€™Asti, Francesco Coppo 2006
The three of us all had this “soup” as a palate cleanser. I could have ended our night here with this flawless dessert. This is the kind of dessert I aim to make someday.
5. Warm passion fruit and blueberry meringue with caramel sauce, huckleberry coulis and Provence lavender ice cream with Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine des Schistes 2006
I loved the lavender ice cream, but I thought the meringue was too sweet with the caramel sauce.
Talk about decadence, but hey, I am allowed to want things. Happy birthday, me.
My birthday last year was with a larger group at Blau Gans
The year before at La Esquina after its opening
A delirious experience at Daniel
A younger menu at Le Bernardin