Monday, October 3, 2011


If Sifty can give it a deuce, I thought it worth a trek to the Upper West Side.  More than that, though, Daniel Boulud isn't one to lead me astray, and though the expansion of his increasingly vast empire doesn't have him slinging hash much himself in any of his eponymous restaurants, he actually WAS there the night I visited.  Boulud Sud opened recently in the space Boulud originally desired for Cafe Boulud, but the deal fell through last minute.  So he opened Cafe around the corner, and when the address finally again became available, he snatched it up.  Conveniently located just south of Bar Boulud (thus, the Sud, and also a nod to the south Mediterranean influence on the menu), Boulud Sud has hit the ground running, and I have to admit my sky-high expectations based on the reviews I heard might have contributed to a heightened criticalness.

The room is subdued, verging on bland.  Ivory and taupe hues, plus glowy lighting somewhat soften the sterility of decor, but regardless there is a sense of elegance and luxury here.   There are white tablecloths in the dining room, but simple woven place mats top the bar and lounge tables.  It's just a hint shy of the poshness of Daniel, while more sophisticated than db Bistro Moderne; that said, all of Daniel's pricepoints fall within the "special occasion" category to me.

  The menu is divided into  De La Mer (fish, etc.) , Du Jardin (vegetable) and De La Ferme (meat & fowl).   Our waiter's enthusiasm for the Salade Tropezienne convinced me to start with that, but while it was a lovely tumble of crisp and juicy fennel, celery and artichoke, it obfuscated a sort of mild skordalia-esque cream bedding the vegetables that wasn't discovered until about 75% of the way through.  Without it, it was a simply dressed raw vegetable salad, but even with the addition of it didn't immediately become rave-worthy.  A saffron linguine with bottarga and razor clams proved more interesting, the spendy spice perfuming the pasta itself along with lemon, then simply tossed with the shellfish and a sprinkle of the mullet roe- but again, a solid dish without much fanfare.  

I was more impressed with the entrees, both selections from De La Mer.  Cedar grilled rouget absorbed its woody fragrance, then present on a flamboyant furl of parchment alongside baby fennel and shallots, with a spritz of piment d'espellette for kicks.   Even more flavorful was the pungent romanesco that pooled aside a slim filet of daurade cooked a la plancha upon a bed of every-so-slightly wilted arugula.
The flavor profiles here tend more robustly Mediterranean than at his other restaurants, which still hold a pretty tight French line.    A great example of this was a side of charred broccoli, stalks cooked tender and toasty topped with crispy, fried shallots, but seasoned with a peperoncini-spiked mix hinting of North Africa.
Desserts present quite the conundrum when it comes to ordering:  Tunisian-born Ghaya Oliviera might actually steal a little of Boulud's thunder with the sweets.  By far the most memorable course we had was  a peach concoction served in a highball: peak-season peaches nestled in a rich zabaglione, with rice pudding ice cream and a playful and pure retro aspic bulging with summery fruits and berries... even a gooseberry, plump and tart provided additional joy in an already exuberant pudding.  It was an appropriate finish to the evening.  The food, all of it, was good enough to make me want to return to try a greater variety.  It felt as if any disappointment was more a function of suboptimal ordering rather than culinary flaw, and inspired desire to poke around the menu to a much greater degree- to see what other treasures might be unearthed from those minimalist menu descriptions.  Which forces me to try and think what might constitute the next "special occasion"....

20 West 64th Street

tel.  1(212)595-1313



  1. You mention this being next to Cafe Boulud - but you are mistaken it is next door to BAR Boulud.