Bar Boulud

21 Aug

Wednesday, August 13th was to be a day of fun in New York.  I was to go into the city with my mom, pick up my brother (who I had not seen in over a month) from his camp bus, and to then meet my friend for a G.Love and the Special Sauce concert.  While this day was clearly going to be on steroids, as one can assess from its mere description, it did not include any premeditated culinary experiences–until we walked a couple blocks from our parking garage. 

I almost walked past the large, wooden barrel juttinng from the side of the restaurant.  However, when I was close enough to make out the name engraved on it, I realized that I had luckily stumbled upon one of the names high on my restaurant “hit list.”  Bar Boulud, a more massive establishment than I had been expecting, as a result of its seasonal outside seating, lured me towards its maitre d’. 

No sooner had the restaurant opened for lunch than my mother and I selected a two-top on the threshhold of the indoor seating, so that half of our table was open to the sidewalk.  A kind waiter with a French accent brought us menus and drinks. 

While we sized up the menu, I appraised the selection of charcuterie that I had so longed to try since hearing of the exploits of Gilles Verot, the mastermind behind it all.  Our appetites being of less than epic proportions, we decided to share the small selection of charcuterie and each order a salad.  The platter arrived first, along with a basket of warm, toasted whole wheat bread. 

Unfortunately, the waiter did not tell us what kind of terrine each sample portion was, but I was luckily able to demystify them by taste.  We were given wedges of the beef cheek terrine with pistachios and onions; the rabbit terrine with carrots and zuchinni; and the pate grand-mere with chicken livers, pork, and cognac.  There were also a few slices of house-made ham, along with small portions of carrots with corriander and celery-apple remoulade.  All of this was served with grainy mustard and pickles, both of which are classic and delectable additions to charcuterie.

We loved all of the offerings on the dish for a variety of reasons.  The pate grand-mere was rich and smooth, combining all of the qualities of a fine pate.  Both the beef cheek and the rabbit terrines employed gelatin as their stabilizer.  While the beef cheek could have been a little more tender (each fiber of meat was a little dry), it was satisfying, especially with the delicious and adorable onion confit (made from small pearl onions).  The rabbit terrine was sufficient testimony as to why rabbit is so often paired with carrots; the two were evidently complimentary. 

The last article of meat on the plate was the ham.  This country ham, Parisian style, was more tender and flavorful than most ordinary hams we produce in America.  It is my gloomy prediction, however, that this treat will remain overshadowed by its competitors from French-bordering nations that the menu offers.  Both prosciutto and ibérico hams are offered on the menu, and because both are so popular, especially the currently novel Iberico, the house made ham will most likely be overlooked, which is a shame. 

As for the accompaniments, both the carrots and the apple-celery remoulade were delicious.  Personally, the carrots were more appealing than the remoulade, as the subtle and aromatic corriander evoked Morrocan undertones.  The carrots were also cooked to perfection, and my guess is that they had been glazed with clarified butter, a trick that adds richness and shine to all vegetables.  The remoulade was refreshing, although for me the carrots outshined it. 

Our salad courses were light and fresh.  Mine was a bright bed of arugula, topped with scant portions of grape tomatoes, fennel, olives, radish shavings, fried artichokes, and white anchovies.  All of the components were fantastic, and although the amount of each was not generous, it all added up into a beautiful whole.  In an era where a mountain of cobb salad at the local cafe is king, the beautiful citizens of the court– Boulud’s seductive and delicate versions–are overlooked. 

Although the meal size was not gargantuan, we did not see dessert on our horizon.  Content, we resolved to return to the restaurant–especially after spying the tempting boudin blanc at the table behind ours on the way out.  Even though the charcuterie has been touted as better than the entrees, I am curious.  I will be back for dinner, for I am propelled by the buzz about the pate grand-pere, a courser and richer counterpart to its wife, the pate grand-mere that I enjoyed at lunch. 

While I have heard less than spectacular reviews of the entrees that sound so perfect on the menu, I am in high hopes of returning to Bar Boulud to leave with the opposite reaction.

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