Cafe Boulud ~ Orderinny

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Cafe Boulud

If WD-50 represents downtown edginess, than Cafe Boulud epitomizes the upper crust, bourgeois lifestyle enjoyed by many living on the Upper East Side. It is therefore no surprise then that the UES is coincidentally where the restaurant is located. While a meal at the upscale casual Cafe Boulud is not a $200 pax shindig at Chef Boulud's eponymous 4-star restaurant, it is still pretty prohibitive on my budget, since I neither work in a hedge fund nor have access to a trust fund. Fortunately for me, my uncle generously treated both Dawn and I to an amazing meal.
Our $38 3 course pre-fixe meal started with an amuse bouche of tuna tartar topped with an apple slice and mushroom gelee effectively wakening our tastebuds with the clean and crisp tastes. I selected my appetizer based on my last experience with the mushroom soup at Cafe Boulud with Pakshun a while ago. The decadently rich soup did not disappoint and was as earthy and thick this time as it was the last, coating my tongue with the essence of mushroom and a lot of heavy cream.
Of the three entree choices available, I picked the lightly and well-cooked salmon presented with the most precious mini carrots in whites and pale yellows. Unfortunately the slightly bitter vegetables did not taste as good as they looked. The obsession with mini-greens extended to Dawn's plate as well, as tiny nubs of brussel sprouts adorned her duo of duck. The mini brussel sprouts were excellent and very seasonal, as was the duck.
For dessert, we both selected a visually stunning and scrumptious baked alaska, which was perched on top of orange and ruby red grapefruit slices and a slightly tart citrus soup, which provided a great contrast to the sweet meringue, lemon flavored cake and icy cool icecream tucked in the middle of the confection.
At this point, we normally would have rubbed our distended bellies and called for the check. But the best is yet to come! My most vivid memory of the meal Pakshun and I had at Cafe Boulud was the yummy mini madeleines the servers set in front of every table after the main meal, and we ate the eggy sea-shell shaped delights up, 3 each with our coffee and tea. It tasted so good when we were already bloated, so just imagine the possibilities if we had been starving!
Fine (or in this case, casual fine dining) can be intimidating for young people used to places with less cutlery, and Dawn and I certainly looked a little out of place, being at least 20 years younger than most of the other diners. One of the biggest fears I have eating out is not using the wrong cutlery, but being discriminated against for being a youthful and less discerning diner. Service at Cafe Boulud was however polite but not obsequious and comfortable enough for everyone of all ages to enjoy. I do believe that Dawn and I were given a less desirable seat, a banquette where we sat next to each other instead of opposite each other, because we did not look like we would complain. We were admittedly late for our lunch appointment on a busy Friday afternoon, so I did not complain as well. However, somewhere between my meal, I conversed casually to the maitre d' about the restaurant layout and specifically about our table and the way it was set up. I believe he understood the cues and decided to make it up to us in a roundabout way by inviting us into the kitchen, where we met the really young chefs responsible for our meal and thanked them for the solid lunch experience. All latent unhappiness about the seats were immediately zapped away by the special attention, although admitted I am easy to please. Some people believe that there should not be a bad seat in a good restaurant at all, and that the act of giving me the seat was ungracious in itself. But I thought the maitre d's special treatment was a pretty crafty but smart one, as it effectively quelled our discontentment over the seats without directly acknowledging it was their their fault. Simple yet masterful, just like the rest of Cafe Boulud. A maneuver worthy of emulation indeed.

Cafe Boulud
20 E 76th St (Between 5th & Madison Ave)

1 comment:

Dawn said...

xi jiejie, i must soooo agree with you... the food was great and the "added" service really made our day...haha..mabbe we can go back one day after i start earning money... hee