Heading into NYC for a mini-vacation, I took the rare opportunity to take Official Sister of DCWD Rissa out to lunch. Since I'm not in New York that often, I decided that I wouldn't half-ass things, so I gave her a few "trendy" options for lunch (read: small places from name chefs), from which she picked Bar Boulud.
Bar Boulud is the namesake chef's third restaurant in New York, and is the only non-Michelin-starred of the three (Daniel has three, Cafe Boulud has one). Bar Boulud sits across from Lincoln Center, at that border between the Lower and Upper West Side, and mirrors its neighborhood in being upscale and trendy but not in an overwraught way. The restaurant very much fulfills its theme, a glass bar that's literally covered in wine bottles spans half the length of the deep dining area, and the opposite wall is decorated with framed pictures of wine stains (no really, wine stains, labeled with their vintage). The room glows from light wheat-colored wood, with booths along the aforementioned wine stain wall, and two-tops otherwise, except for one community tasting table in the back.
Service was fine, though they were very anxious to clear plates. I'm a much faster eater than Rissa, who wasn't done with her first course when they came with our second. It ended up fine (I just popped what was left in my mouth), but still, a little OZ (overzealous).
Rissa and I got sucked in by the waitress into ordering the rosemary lemonade, just because it sounded so damn intriguing. What we got was really heavy on the rosemary, like punch-you-in-the-face heavy, so the first couple of sips were a little harsh, though it got more pleasant as the meal went on.
Being as though I was sort of on a budget, considering the night's meal, we decided to go with the lunch prix fixe menu. Rissa ordered the pate grand-mere, made with liver, pork, and cognac. I still find it funny that the way our parents raised us, we don't really think twice about ordering pate and eating it as an appetizer in a very "you know, as you do" attitude. That being said, the pate was very solid; nothing crazy, but very classic.
With Rissa ordering the pate, I went with the soup du jour, a carrot ginger soup with creme fraiche. I am a known creme fraiche fiend, probably stemming from the fact that my mom will add it to anything from soups to omelets in the morning. So the generous dollop here was much appreciated, since it gave the soup a sharpness and a creaminess that was pleasant. The best parts of the soup were when I got any small bit of the creme fraiche or the ginger in my spoonful, so in that way, the soup was also solid but nothing crazy.
For her main course, Rissa had the housemade cavatelli with a lamb ragu, olives, peppers, tomato, and pecorino cheese. By now, I think the theme of the restaurant is very clear; this dish was solid in its classicness and was very good but nothing great. The pasta was in that space in between exceedingly good housemade, and perfunctory so-so. The additions were also good, with crisp clear flavors.
On my end, I ordered the grilled mahi mahi with radish, cauliflower, and muscat grapes, all in a brown butter sauce. This was delightful, wonderfully cooked fish with some brilliant sides, which really brought out earthy, country flavors. The radish was delightful, cooked so that it mimicked something almost melonlike, juicy and soft while still retaining some firmness. And obviously, I love me some brown butter sauce.
For dessert, Rissa had a coffee-chocolate parfait with chantilly-crystallized walnuts (whatever those are), an almond meringue, and chocolate-vanilla ice cream. My choice was a layered cake with pineapple gelee, ginger-citrus mousse, and pineapple sorbet. Both were similar in that they were simple, beautifully plated, and nicely sweet. Nothing too complex.
Solid, solid food. Lots of good dishes, with moments of greatness.