If you do follow the food blogs Eater or The Feedbag for the past few weeks, Cafe Boulud is going to be closed for renovations on August 16th. They’re hoping to open around September 21st, according to John Winterman, the maître d’ of Cafe Boulud. I thought I might as well have one of their last few lunch services before they’ll close down for the rest of the summer. Yes, they’re still participating Restaurant Week until today, Friday, 8/14. Last meal of service is dinner tomorrow evening, 8/15.
The last time you’ll see the interior like this
Here’s one last look of the soon-to-be “old” Cafe Boulud. It does need some sprucing up, comparing to other restaurants of their caliber. I can’t wait to see their new interior towards the end of September.
Moving on to the food, while I was perusing the menu, my waiter brought me two tiny balls of tomato basil arancini to nibble on as I figure out what I want to eat for lunch. These little, burnished orange-red, fried orbs were delicious. Once I bite through the thick, crisp crust, the interior was smooth and tender with a touch of creamy, stringy mozzarella.
Bread service didn’t change a whole lot when I look back the last time I ate here in the winter of 2008. The choices of the day were slices of wheat bread, butter rolls, or the plain. My butter roll was good. I enjoyed the not-too thick crust and the crumb was soft, chewy and pillow-y with a good hit of butter flavor.
As I was expecting my appetizer to show up in a couple of minutes, a server walked up to my table and told me that this dish was “compliments from the chef.” This other amuse was cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and basil oil. This amuse was very light and I loved the combination of sweetness from the tomato, the creamy, tartness of the cheese, and the olives that highlighted the tomatoes sweetness.
The salmon tartare was a harmonious blend of creamy (chive crème fraîche), silky (fine bits of salmon tartare) with the occasional crunchy bites of potato chips and tart cornichons.
My entrée was the grilled leg of lamb with flageolet beans, paddy pan squash, sauce pistou. The lamb was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. The tender beans were tender and creamy (though it still doesn’t sway me to love beans), and the squash was sweet and tender.
What disappointed me slightly was dessert – Strawberry Rhubarb Napoleon. I was imaging a Napoleon pastry whose pastry cream is flavored with strawberry rhubarb. But this version satiated my sweet tooth. The Napoleon was filled with vanilla flecked, diplomat cream (a type of pastry cream) in between two layers of puff pastry, dusted in powdered sugar. My favorite was the strawberry rhubarb sorbet’s smooth, robust yet balanced flavors of sweet (strawberries) and tart (rhubarb).
And as the Cafe Boulud tradition, at the end of the meal, the table gets a napkin folded into a basket filled with warm, buttery, lemony madelines, lightly sweetened with powdered sugar.
This overall lunch experience fared much better than the last time I was here in late January 2008. The food was pretty solid and service was sublime and everyone was on point. Hopefully after the renovations, they’ll keep the food and service at this level or improve with the spruced up interior.
Cafe Boulud (website)
20 East 76th Street
New York, NY 10021 (map)