Less than the sum of its parts

2005.Jun.30 Thursday · 0 comments

in Restaurants

New York City – It’s official, as of yesterday. My apartment is now sold – closed, the check is deposited – and my real estate broker and friend of 20 years took me out to lunch. Her pick, one of her longtime favorites, Bouley. I only ate there once, years ago, at the original Bouley. I also sorta, kinda worked there one summer. I was preparing for the national sommelier competition and Dominique Simon (now a wine importer), who was the wine director and manager of the old Bouley, graciously and generously offered to let me hang out with him on Saturday evenings over the course of the summer. It was an incredible opportunity to taste numerous amazing wines that otherwise I never would have. I also learned a huge amount about wine service – I was brand new to the field, having spent the previous portion of my career cooking.

So what’s to say about the new Bouley? It’s much the same as the old Bouley. There are definite improvements. The staff, while still formal, are more relaxed, there’s not the stiff condescension that often used to occur. There are non-French waiters working there! Some of them are women. The room, while once again a deep red in color with heavy, formal furniture, is a much more light filled space, being a corner building now, with windows on two sides. The crates of apples have been replaced by a beautifully designed display of racked apples – and that entryway is still one of the best smells on entering a restaurant!

David Bouley is consistent – the food is much the same as it was. There’s a better selection of breads, with Bouley Bakery just across the street. You could fill up on just bread and be perfectly happy. It felt like there were more “give-aways”, but I’m not entirely sure. Outside of the appetizers and entrees we ordered we received three amuses, a middle course, three small desserts, and petits fours. It was a lot of food for lunch!

The menu, and the plates, are still adorned with far too many ingredients. I like simplicity. When there are a couple of dozen components to everything, the plates look and taste busy. There are too many opportunities for clashes and mismatches. There’s also a preponderance of sweet and fruit in sauces and garnishes. Nothing we had was bad, per se, but I found in most of the dishes that each component worked well individually, and was quite delicious, but as a whole, each dish was less than the sum of its parts. There was nothing that we tried that I’d want to rush back for, but there were some wonderful ideas for things that I’d love to try again on their own or in new dishes.

I had a delightful experience, it was a joy to try Bouley’s food once again. I can’t say I’d rush back, but I could go for a bowl of the tomato sorbet garnished with vanilla roasted cherry tomatoes all on its own. Just eliminate the addition (and the intended focus of the dish), of the slabs of mozzarella with three or four sauces that were plopped in the middle of the plate.

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