With an outpost on every corner, Duane Street between West Broadway and Hudson Street is very literally David Bouley's world. While the city around has hit the skids, the chef—driven by optimism or simply denial—has been charging ahead with his expansion plans. The eponymous Bouley—the newly relocated airy flagship of his growing empire—exists in its own fantastical bubble: a place where the Dow still surges and expense-account spending never dried up.
The original Bouley, once one of the city's great haute cuisine destinations, has over the years becomet increasingly marginal—the chef's dated devotion to an opulent late-'80s aesthetic is as unwavering today as it was when the restaurant first opened 22 years ago. The new locale is a tricked-out version of the old one (where the sprawling Bouley Market now is). The aromatic apples that greeted diners as they walked through the door are still at the entrance—but now there are more of them, a whole wall on wooden shelves. The vaulted ceilings have also returned—constructed from scratch and given an over-the-top coat of golden paint.
The restaurant makes no concessions for the new economic realities. Instead, excess abounds, from the hand-carved wood door and stone floors (imported from a quarry near Paris) to the gilt-edged porcelain, silver candelabras, velvet chairs and massive velvet-framed Provence scene pastels—you won't find this much velvet outside of the Liberace Museum. The buttoned-up service and setting—the brigade of waiters in black tie is serenely professional—give the impression that perhaps perfection awaits. But the glacial pacing I experienced should cost someone a job.
Though the food was gorgeous to look at and often delicious to eat, having to wait nearly an hour between appetizers and entres significantly undermined the kitchen's fine work.
Still, patience mostly paid off. Briny raw oysters out of the shell, wrapped in raw scallop and topped with osetra caviar, had a primal deep-ocean quality. A slow-poached egg in a far richer appetizer, meanwhile, came swaddled in buttery polenta and sunchoke puree, with coconut-garlic broth and whisper-thin Serrano ham shards.
Those muted starters—pleasant, not groundbreaking—were upstaged by the much bolder entres (once they showed up). Butter-poached lobster, its meat candy-sweet, luxuriated with fresh hearts of palm and shelled snap peas in a balanced pomegranate and pinot noir sauce—Bouley is nothing if not a master of the saucier's art. Fork-tender chicken breast, slow-cooked in a steam oven, was as elegant a poultry dish as I've tasted in some time, its silky flesh paired with fresh fava beans, miniature crosnes, rich almond puree and black-truffle dice.
As much as the entres outdid the starters, here—as at Secession across the street—desserts really are the best part of the meal. The refreshing frozen snowball meringue with pistachio cream and the many-faceted chocolate frivolous (featuring a chocolate pot de crme and a warm chocolate cake) won me over bite after bite. Both are designed-—like the clichd dining room—with romance in mind. The new Bouley strives even more than the old one to make every New Yorker's short list for a special-occasion meal. But as a destination for a birthday, anniversary or wedding proposal, it's but a B-list runner up to the likes of Jean Georges, Daniel or even Corton just up the street.
Drink this: The Vouvray Sec from Domaine du Clos Naudin ($88) is an exceptional midpriced (for this list) white, which is rich enough to stand up to the red-wine-sauced lobster.
Eat this: Butter-poached lobster with pomegranate pinot noir sauce, chicken with almond puree and black truffles, chocolate frivolous.
Sit here: Tables are all well lit and well spaced. The most romantic have a view of the fireplace and are illuminated by candelabras instead of table lamps.
Conversation piece: The new Bouley Market, where the flagship restaurant last stood, sells fresh meat and fish along with prepared stocks and sauces. Meanwhile, the old Upstairs at Bouley has doubled in size. Next up for the chef: a Japanese restaurant at the corner of West Broadway and Reade Street.
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163 Duane St
|Cross street:||at Hudson St|
|Opening hours:||Daily 11:30am–3pm, 5–11:30pm|
|Transport:||Subway: A, C, 1, 2, 3 to Chambers St|
|Price:||Average main course: $40. AmEx, DC, Disc, MC, V|
|Do you own this business?|
Average User Rating
3 / 5
- 5 star:1
- 4 star:0
- 3 star:0
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:1
I am sad to hear your experience was none other than top notch. As far as I and the Mrs are concerned, there is no restaurant in NYC, maybe the USA, perhaps the World as exquisite as BOULEY. Obviously, we are limited but if i may drop names, GEORGES V, L'Ambrosie, (France), Da Vittorio (IT) Le Toq (Montreal), The Richmond (London) Can SOle (Barcelona) BOULEY is best. It is the COMPLETE sensual experience fine dining must be. The apples, the flowers, the colors, the comfort, the tranquility and service, I only find at BOULEY. Did you realize the doors to the downstairs room I believe you dined are from an ancient French monastery? I admit consistency is important and perhaps the most difficult achievement. Having said that, when Chef Bouley is cooking, and everything is in tune: I have had some of the finest dining experiences ever at BOULEY.
Beware! Our experience was extremely disappointing. With bland food, unannounced alterations to the dishes on the menu, and some of it tasting day-old, was the chef was on vacation? Beautiful restaurant with good wine list, but the service was appalling. Avoid being seated in the basement, where it took us 40 minutes to be served our wine. Our glasses sat empty for 80% of the time as there was rarely a server in our room.
The food did not deserve a Michelin star. The "forager" mushrooms were dime-sized, notflavorful, and instead of having sweet garlic, noted on the menu, were in a cloying coconut milk. It seemed day old. The duck was well cooked, but had no sauce, only a tablespoon of risotto mixture. The visual appeal of other dishes was not matched by the culinary experience. The Bread Cart did not come until the main course, when we were almost finished with our meal. We ordered sparkling water, but our small glasses were never refilled and yet cost $20. The best part were the chocolates after the meal. They also sent each of us home with a small pound cake, simple, but a nice gesture.
When I called the next day, there was no apology or
explanation. When I wrote asking that my email be sent to the chef, I never
received a response and it has been almost two weeks. Feel misled by the reviews and sad that I brought friends here to celebrate my birthday.