Josh has been itching to try Bar Boulud ever since we moved into the neighborhood. We pass it all the time and the tables outside on the sidewalk are always full. Plus it’s a Daniel Boulud restaurant, so how bad can it be? I reminded Josh that this restaurant’s main focus is on charcuterie, however, and not necessarily on standard french main courses and appetizers. Nevertheless, we have both been intrigued by the art of charcuterie ever since we read The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman, which chronicles the Certified Master Chef exam, of which charcuterie plays a major part.
Josh was able to get us a reservation for Sunday night dinner so off we went. We arrived early for our reservation (surprising!) but they seated us right away, even though our party was incomplete. We had a table next to the window at the front of the restaurant, so we had a nice view of the “wine cave” tunnel that makes up most of the dining area.
The main room is a tunnel built like a wine cave
However, it was unbearably hot where we were. I don’t know if the heat was an issue in the whole restaurant, but we were seated underneath a vent and nothing was coming out of it. This continued for our entire dinner, making most of us feel extremely uncomfortable. We asked our waitress about it and she said the air was on, but we definitely couldn’t feel it.
Nevertheless, we fanned ourselves with our menus as we looked at the long list of offerings. We were pleasantly surprised to see that they were offering a $35 “Endless Weekends” prix fixe dinner menu that had several tempting options. While we were perusing the menus, a runner dropped off a basket of big puffy gougeres. These were deliciously light and cheesy, and we finished them off immediately.
Puffy, crispy, and chewy gougeres
Sadly, they replaced our basket of gougeres with regular bread. I would have liked more of the cheese puffs! The bread wasn’t bad; it just didn’t have a crispy crust and was very chewy. I did enjoy the accompanying butter, which had a nice sprinkling of coarse salt on top.
Ok bread with good butter and salt
Most of us chose to order from the $35 prix fixe, except that they ran out of one of the entrees, a braised heritage berkshire pork shank. Josh was the only one who decided to order a la carte instead, since the rest of us covered all the other prix fixe options.
We decided to share some charcuterie to start before getting into our appetizers. We got an order of Pate Grand-Mere, which is made from chicken liver, pork and cognac. It was a huge piece of pate and was not too overwhelming in chicken liver flavor, which is good or bad depending on your preference. It had a nice subtle liver-ness to it but was still very rich. Josh is not a liver fan and he still enjoyed this dish.
We also had a terrine of lamb, eggplant, and sweet potato. This had a softer, smoother texture than the Pate Grand-Mere but the flavors were more muddled. The lamb was not gamey at all, and had I not seen the menu I wouldn’t have known we were having lamb. It didn’t taste bad but there was nothing about it that stood out.
Lamb, eggplant, and sweet potato terrine
Finally, we shared a plate of prosciutto san daniele, which was sliced very thinly and deliciously fatty. The prosciutto had a nice soft texture and basically melted in your mouth.
Prosciutto san daniele
They gave us pieces of toasted brown bread to spread the pate and terrines on. The crunchiness of the toast worked well with the smoothness of the charcuterie.
A piece of crunchy brown toast and a little taste of everything
Moving on to the appetizers, we had a choice of gazpacho, gnocchi with chorizo, or rabbit and beef cheek terrines. Josh’s cousin selected the gazpacho, which was an impressive bright red color and had watermelon in it in addition to the usual gazpacho ingredients. It was pureed smooth and was perfectly seasoned. The bright flavors really popped and it had a nice tang to it. It really was a refreshing course after the heavy pate and terrine.
Bright and tasty gazpacho
Josh’s parents both selected the gnocchi with chorizo, which was an absolutely delicious dish and the winner out of all the appetizers. The gnocchi were melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the chorizo added a nice smoky background to the sauce. I ended up stealing half of Josh’s mom’s portion, as I was not so happy with my own appetizer selection.
Gnocchi with chorizo
I had originally ordered the gnocchi dish myself, but after everyone ordered I switched last minute to the terrines, since no one else had ordered that as an appetizer. I didn’t have the foresight to think that we were already getting a pate and another terrine to start. By the time we finished those pre-appetizers, I was pretty much terrined out. The beef cheek terrine was very similar to the lamb terrine, though it was a bit meatier in flavor. It was also very rich and heavy, and I didn’t feel the need to finish it. The rabbit terrine was much lighter, and had nice chunks of rabbit meat in it. I enjoyed this terrine a lot more but I still preferred the gnocchi. I must say that they did give a generous portion of each terrine, which is nice considering it was part of the prix fixe special.
Beef cheek terrine on the left and rabbit terrine on the right
Josh was the only one who didn’t order off the prix fixe menu, and he opted for steak tartare as his appetizer. The tartare tasted wonderfully fresh and was nicely seasoned. It was served with crunchy potato gaufrettes, though there weren’t enough chips to last through all the tartare. Nevertheless, it was my second favorite appetizer of the evening.
For his main course, Josh selected the coq au vin. It fell cleanly off the bone but I thought the meat was still very dry. I also didn’t think it had enough seasoning or a deep enough wine flavor, but Josh seemed to enjoy the dish a lot. The hand rolled pasta that was mixed with the dish was an interesting twist though, and a nice addition I thought.
Coq au vin
Josh’s mom ordered the moules a la provencale, which were steamed mussels in a white wine broth with tomatoes and herbs. It was a pretty decently sized bowl of mussels but a bit lacking in flavor. It wasn’t that they were bad, they just didn’t have a nice garlic punch that you tend expect from mussels steamed in white wine.
Moules a la provencale
The rest of us opted for the grilled angus steak with market beans and smoked onion mashed potatoes. My steak was cooked rare to order and nicely seasoned. The market beans were sauteed but a bit boring. The mashed potatoes, however, had a nice smokiness to them, and the caper steak sauce that was drizzled on top of the meat and potatoes really added a lot to the flavor of the dish. This was my favorite entree of the group.
Steak with beans and smoked onion mashed potatoes
We also ordered some sides to share. First up was a cauliflower gratin, which was kind of like mac and cheese but made with big pieces of cauliflower. It was creamy and cheesy and totally addictive.
Our order of spinach didn’t come out as expected, but it was still tasty. We thought it would be sauteed spinach; instead, what we got was more like creamed spinach without cream. The spinach was chopped very finely and had a smooth texture.
Some kind of spinach
Lastly, we couldn’t go to a French restaurant and not get pommes frites. The french fries were cut very thin and were nicely seasoned but unfortunately, they were really soggy. That was kind of disappointing, even though they still tasted really good.
For dessert, the prix fixe menu came with a choice of apricot clafoutis or coupe framboise, which was white chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries, pistachio crumble, and strawberry sorbet. The presentation of the coupe framboise was really nice, with everything layered in a clear glass. The white chocolate mousse was creamy and delicious, and all the ingredients just worked really well together.
The apricot clafoutis was and almond cake topped with apricots and a layer of crumble on top. While I didn’t think almond cake and apricot worked well together at Morimoto, this dessert was really scrumptious and comforting. The cake part was a bit eggy, the apricots soft and sweet, and the crumble added a nice textural contrast.
Josh ordered his dessert a la carte, and then traded with his cousin for the coupe framboise. She is a self-proclaimed total chocoholic and couldn’t turn down the tarte au chocolat classique, a chocolate tart with hazelnut spread and chocolate-vanilla ice cream. It was super rich and super chocolately, perfect for any chocolate-lover.
Tarte au chocolat
Overall I enjoyed certain aspects of Bar Boulud, but not everything. Apparently I’m not a huge fan of terrines and pates, but I appreciate the skill that it takes to make them. The $35 prix fixe menu was a pretty good deal, especially since the a la carte options here are pretty pricey. Though the place is always full and bustling, the atmosphere is still pretty laid back and relaxed. Our waitress was attentive but not overbearing. While I’m not sure that I would come back here for another full meal, I might stop by for a nice glass wine and some cured meats and cheeses.
1900 Broadway between 63rd and 64th St.
New York, NY