I had a slow start to Summer Restaurant Week, having my first meal for the season today at Café Boulud. Café Boulud is, of course, one of the babies of much lauded chef Daniel Boulud. James Beard "Rising Star Chef" awardee Gavin Kaysen is at the helm of this bistro, which serves up fare revolving around 4 themes: French tradition, seasonality, market and world flavors. I liked the selection of dishes on the Restaurant Week menu, but was disappointed that none of the items were from the regular menu. That's something that a lot of participants do, but I've found that I'm more likely to return to a restaurant that served up regular items. Just sayin'.
But anyway ... we all selected the crispy tiger prawns to start:
Definitely a world flavor inflected dish. The crispy tiger prawns are reminiscent of rock shrimp tempura one would get at a Japanese establishment, but the earthy pureed Thai eggplant added a whole other dimension. The diced pineapple, pickled jalapeno and cilantro gave the dish a bit of Latin and tropical flair. A very, very yummy starter. For our entrees, we all selected the grilled hangar steak with wild mushroom polenta, asparagus and béarnaise sauce:
I had mixed feelings about this dish, particularly because the way the steak was cooked was quite inconsistent too. I asked for my steak medium rare, and the first slice you see in the picture above definitely fit the bill. But succeeding slices came in all kinds: well done, medium and medium rare. Strange. And I guess I just have to quit letting my hunger get the best of me when ordering because the truth is, I really don't like hanger steak. So no more of that! The asparagus was a nice and crisp reprieve from all the meat, and nicely flavored with the béarnaise. The polenta was good, but I was not a fan of the dense consistency. I prefer my polenta creamy.
Dessert brought the smile back to my face. The vanilla creme brulee was light as a feather and absolutely scrumptious. The tart berries were a welcome respite from the sweetness. I also really loved the lady fingers. YUM. What we found quite nice too was how accomodating they were to my berry-hating friend Ludette. She feels quite strongly that berries do not belong on her dessert so she asked that they leave berries off hers. They did one better by giving her the creme brulee plus lady fingers with vanilla filling and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. A beige version of our concoction, pretty much. That was lovely of them.
Qualms? That my capuccino tasted of burnt coffee beans and cost $5. Not good. Aside from that, I'd say Café Boulud was a great way to kick off the season. Can't wait to try more!
Café Boulud is located at 20 East 76th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue in New York. Tel. 212-772-2600