Before coming here, I told myself that if Bouley was amazing enough to be worth writing about, then I’d start blogging again. I had stumbled upon their five-course lunch menu while looking for a nice splurge-y place to celebrate my new job, and knew I had to try it. So two cancelled reservations (due to delayed renovations 😦 ) and one month later, David, my trusty food buddy, and I finally made it to lunch here, and it was every bit as wonderful as I’d expected.
We were seated downstairs in the Red Room, which our hostess described as “more quiet and intimate.” While Bouley is definitely fancy – jackets are required for men, even during lunch – it doesn’t feel stuffy or pretentious. The restaurant is absolutely beautiful: fresh flowers along the windows, colored crystal chandeliers, painted vaulted ceilings, and plush armchairs everywhere. Even the bathroom feels like a parlor room fit for a queen (true story: I walked into the bathroom and there were three women in there having their own little photoshoot).
To start off our meal, we were served two amuse-bouches. The first was a tomato coulis with that came with a chunk of lobster, a bit of tomato, and ricotta swirled in. The second was a black truffle canapé. Both were amazing – signs of good things to come!
For my first course, I ordered the Big Eye Tuna. I was expecting tuna and caviar on a plate, so what a surprise when they came sitting in a foam-filled bowl instead. The foam was apple flavored, fluffy and light, and provided a refreshingly sweet contrast to the saltier tuna and caviar. Who would’ve thought that apple, tuna, and caviar would go so well together?
David ordered the Blini of Scottish Smoked Salmon, which was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever eaten, texture-wise. The salmon came stuffed in a dehydrated apple meringue that looked pretty much like spongy foam. Our server told us it was okay to pick it up with our hands, so we did – and it felt exactly like spongy foam too. Once you get past feeling like you’re biting into a makeup sponge, it’s a pretty awesome dish. The foamy part melts away almost instantly in your mouth, leaving you with the more savory salmon.
My second course was the Porcini Flan. It wasn’t a flan in the typical custard sense, but more closely resembled a mushroom bisque. The Dungeness crab chunks in the flan were plentiful, and the porcini and black truffle flavors were rich and just plain amazing. It’s no wonder this is one of Bouley’s signature dishes… all five people at the table next to us ordered it too!
David got the Forager’s Treasure of Wild Mushrooms (…hm, I just realized we both got mushroom dishes for our second course), which was a plate of mushrooms served with several pieces of tuna, sweet garlic foam, and some greens. Since it was David’s dish and not mine, I sadly was only able to try one mushroom. The garlic foam, interestingly, tasted kind of like coconut.
Keeping with the seafood theme, my third course was the Indian Reservation Sourced Copper River Salmon. While the salmon itself was very tender and overall pretty good, the dish didn’t “wow” me like previous dishes had.
David ordered the Slow Braised Kobe Style Beef Cheeks. It was too dense and heavy tasting for my liking, though I did like the small pieces of gnocchi on the bottom.
The next two courses were both dessert. I got the White Doughnut Peach Soup, which came in a snazzy gold-flecked bowl. The peach soup, swirled together with the red grape sorbet in the middle, was sweet but still had a hint of tartness. It would make a great fruity, aromatic tea flavor.
David got the Tristar Strawberries. The amaretto ice cream that came on the side was the real highlight of this dessert, with its super rich almond flavor. I had one spoonful and fell in love.
My fifth and final course was the Hot Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé. Up until now, I had felt comfortably satiated but not about-to-explode full… this is where that changed. The soufflé, accompanied by white coffee ice cream and dairy-free chocolate mousse on the side, was very, very decadent. I loved the white coffee ice cream; it kept the dessert from being too much chocolate overload (though I still felt myself slipping into a chocolate coma, zzzz).
David chose the Selection of Cheeses, which I didn’t try because we have polar opposite tastes in dessert.
While we were finishing up our desserts, our server also presented us with a plate of very cute petits fours! The selection included a pistachio macaron, chocolate truffles, sesame cookies, chocolate-coated biscuits, and a tuile cookie. Too full to eat it all, I settled for trying a bite of each (other than the macaron, which I polished off quite easily). My two favorites were the dark chocolate-coated biscuit and the macaron.
As we headed out of the restaurant, I had to stop and take a picture of the incredible apple-filled foyer, another one of Bouley’s signature things. There are several thousand (!!!) apples here, sitting on shelves that go from floor to ceiling. It adds a unique, rustic charm to the already beautiful restaurant.
Overall, lunch at Bouley was more than worth the splurge. The flavors in each dish blended together wonderfully, and everything about the restaurant was a top-notch experience. We were even given goodie bags with freshly baked lemon pound cakes on our way out – the cherry on top of the perfect sundae!
163 Duane St
New York, NY 10013