In Daniel Boulud’s empire of New York restaurants — Daniel, Café Boulud, Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud, and DB Bistro Moderne — no two are quite the same. Daniel is his fine dining flagship, Café Boulud is still upscale but less expensive, Boulud Sud features Mediterranean cuisine, DB Bistro is a classic upscale French bistro, and Bar Boulud is a modern wine bar specializing in seasonal French fare and house-made terrines and pates. We recently had the opportunity to dine at Bar Boulud, and not only is the menu full of spot-on versions of legendary classic French fare and the wine list full of treasures from Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, the restaurant itself is simply a whole lot of fun.
The restaurant doesn’t look like any others in the city: It’s a very long, relatively narrow space, with an arched ceiling and a long wine bar taking up much of the left side. Opposite the bar are comfortable booths, and we were seated at the end of a banquette in the small dining room beyond the bar. Our meal began with a festive glass of grand cru blanc de blancs Champagne from Robert Moncuit, with “Cuvée Daniel Boulud” right on the label.
This was accompanied by a slew of appetizers: a flawless tarte flambée, a crispy-crust Alsatian flatbread topped with fromage blanc, bacon, and caramelized onions; a rich duck pâté studded with chunks of duck breast and topped with dried figs (there’s an in-house charcutier turning out an astounding varieties of pâtés and terrines); a pool of melted raclette served with bresaola, Parisian ham, fingerling potatoes, and cornichons; light and creamy hand-cut Black Angus beef tartare topped with a raw egg yolk; and Burgundy escargots, served on a traditional platter topped with garlic and almond-herb butter.
We could have easily stopped there, but the entrées were still to-come: Duck breast a l’orange was perfectly cooked and glazed with an orange-based bigarde sauce that was bright and rich and not cloying at all, served with wild rice, turnips, and braised greens. And the steak frites (available with either bavette or dry-aged New York strip) was also deeply burnished and cooked to a perfect medium-rare, and served with béarnaise or bordelaise. Sommelier Joe Robitaille suggested a 2011 Clos de Trias from the Southern Rhone to complement our meal, and it served that purpose admirably (and was also very reasonably priced at $64); he also swung by later in the meal to pour us a glass from a three-liter double magnum of 2006 Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino Riserva; every night the restaurant opens up a new large-format wine.
Bar Boulud is loud, lively, and a whole lot of fun; if you’re looking for a subdued romantic evening, you should probably check out DB Bistro or Café Boulud instead. They’re not blazing new avant-garde culinary territory, but nobody’s asking them to: They’re simply serving nearly-flawless versions of traditional French bistro fare along with a spectacular selection of wine in a modern and inviting space. You might still wish to follow up your meal with a show across the street at Lincoln Center, but honestly, a visit here is all the entertainment you’ll need.
The meal that is the subject of this review was provided at no cost to the writer.