Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bar Boulud and the NYT Review -Two, Stars or Too Stars?

For the past several months, I anxiously awaited Mr. Frank Bruni's reviewof Bar Boulud. It's here! It's after midnight on the eve of food-day (Wednesday) when his review will be published in print, and I'm reading it on-line and taken aback by his comments but also am quite pleased.

Apparently it's the charcuterie that swayed Mr. Bruni into giving the casual off-shoot restaurant from a four-star chef's new attempt at a gig into receiving the two stars versus the "other food selections" on the menu which, according to Mr. Bruni, are "not quite losers, but definitely snoozers."

Furthermore, Mr. Bruni states that Bar Boulud is "better during the day." Also, he finds more glory in "lunchtime sandwiches than in dinnertime lamb stew."

Need I say more?? Note my last comment in my review below. To reiterate, need I say more, or need I say more??

Bar Boulud – Better the Second Time Around

We visited Bar Boulud the first week after it opened and it was not a pleasant experience. The place was crowded and the service was poor. The food was not prepared very well. The escargot was unclean and gritty and accompanied with greasy undercooked potato croquets. The skate was overdone, shriveled and desiccated. My companion’s veal chop was cold. Since the restaurant was brand new, we figured there were several kinks that needed to be worked out.

Last week, we revisited Bar Boulud and were quite pleased this time. The restaurant was not overly crowded and the service was much improved. We had a better table selection, as well. During our first visit, we were seated in the crowded front of the restaurant. Our server had to maneuver between patrons waiting for tables and diners sitting in such close proximity that they had to move in their chairs so he could get through with our plates. This time, we were seated in a booth at the back of the restaurant closer to the stairway that leads into the kitchen. No cold food expected this time.

Pre-fix lunch, which includes an appetizer and entrée, was $29. First, we each started off with a weak bloody Mary. Then came the appetizers. I ordered a shrimp salad. My companion selected the pate grand-pere, which was a duck pâté, from the charcuterie menu. My shrimp salad consisted of an entire head of bib lettuce leaves, which looked extremely clean and fresh, bright green without any dirt or grit. In between all of the foliage, were several dime-size scatterings of tomato confit, which tasted like they were marinated in sherry vinegar, and four medium-size shrimps, which were not chewy or overdone. Along the outer layer of leaves, there was a slight drizzle of tasteless vinaigrette. My companion indicated that his pate was much better—more mature—than last time, where the pate tasted “young.”

Typically, I’m a bit hesitant about ordering certain fish dishes—salmon, in particular because if it’s not prepared properly, it becomes cat food. Hesitantly, I ordered the salmon scaloppini served with broccoli rabe and a ver jus. To my surprise, the salmon was prepared rare enough to my liking where the fish glistened and literally fell apart. Slivered almonds and the ver jus balanced the underlying sweetness of the salmon.

My companion enjoyed his entrée of duck hash that was made with potatoes, onions, and chunks of duck meat and a confit served under a soft-boiled egg. I tasted the hash and although it had a nice combination of flavors, thought it was a bit greasy. He didn’t.

In conclusion, Bar Boulud was much better the second time. And, to me, offers better service at lunch.

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