Friday, September 23, 2011

Boulud Is Back

Walking into Boulud Sud on the Upper West Side is like walking into any three or four star establishment of the late 90s and early 2000s. The room is quiet, filled with patterned banquettes, carpeted, and dotted with the oldest dining crowd in recent memory. The only people in my age group were being taken out to eat by their parents.

That didn't bode well for my wallet.

Actually, the menu is conceptually brilliant, divided into seafood, vegetables, and meat dishes. Every category has a series of small plates, appetizers (which might as well be called "slightly larger small plates), and entrees, all priced accordingly. This means that you can skate by without ever ordering a main course, which I took advantage of, instead ordering six small dishes, a side, and two desserts.

But the service left something to be desired. Before our server had even taken our drink order, our first four dishes had arrived at the table. Once I ordered a drink, ten minutes elapsed before the server came back to report that they were, in fact, out of the cocktail. After our final courses were cleared, we waited twenty minutes for dessert menus and another twenty minutes after our menus arrived, waiting for our order to be taken.

Nonetheless, the food was largely impressive. A take on a Greek salad was crisp and clean, speckled with fresh oregano. A plate of hummus, babaghanoush, and falafel came with thin, wafter crisps and a spicy mayonnaise. The bread that came gratis was two kinds of focaccia--one with black olives--and a crispy, fatty flatbread that went perfectly with our harissa marinated mussels, cooked out of the shell in a brunoise of tomato and carrots. Duck legs were wrapped in phyllo pastry and atop a sweet and thick date puree.

A rabbit porchetta, weirdly served cold, lacked flavor (as did the sad, underseasoned market carrots that accompanied it), but the blue prawns, head on, made up for that misstep. The prawns were perfectly cooked and seasoned and the heads were crunchy--I ate all four heads. Broccoli rabe was another disappointment, but dessert, when it finally arrived, was a dinner atonement. A grapefruit sorbet came in a hollowed grapefruit with halvah and segments of the fruit. Our second dish featured sweet and tangy plums over squares of a soft cinnamon cake that resembled, in texture, the fluffy inside of a sourdough loaf. It was a delicate and lovely end to a long meal.

Boulud Sud
20 W. 64th Street
New York, NY 10023

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