David Bouley's first restaurant made a lasting impression on me. Apples over took your senses the minute you walked into the door. Dishes were innovative. There was nothing quite like it at the time in NYC. He was early to the game. I believe at that time Bouley was a 5 star restaurant. Times have changed.
Bouley talked about creating a place where he could create, teach, cook. He has created that in Tribeca. There is Upstairs where no reservations are taken. Sushi and a changing menu based on visiting chefs and the season. There is Danube that is like eating in Austria, rich and buttery. Bouley Bakery which is a cafe and the signature restaurant, Bouley.
We went to Bouley last night to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. Walking into the restaurant down a small hallway lined with apples brought back memories. I like that he kept that signature piece. Low vaulted ceilings create a very intimate setting. Rich colors, small tables and banquettes. The floral arrangements on each table are really beautiful and accent the room. Elegant country French.
Service is impeccable. We started off with a small compliments from the chef. Frozen tomato slush over pesto, mozzarella and basil. Pizza in a bowl. The cold with the warm didn't work for me.
Fred had an appetizer called Return from Chiang Mai. It wasn't that I expected. A terrine of lobster, mango, artichoke and Serrano ham also layered in there was passion fruit and coconut over a tamarind sauce. It was interesting. I was going to go for something simple but opted for something I couldn't get anywhere else. In hindsight, I think I might have been better off with simple. I had 3 panache salads. It was a good way to taste different things. One was seafood. One shrimp and one scallop roasted with a sweet salty sauce. The other was a small pastry, like a pie, filled with a medley of mushrooms and micro greens over the top. It wasn't very flavorful, bland actually. The third salad was a foie gras with a rich sauce. It was a bit runny and chewy at the same time.
We both went for meat entrees to go with our big red Spanish wine. Fred had pork served 3 different ways. A belly, a brisket and a loin. Each preparation had a different flavor neither was memorable.
I had the lamb. 2 chops and 2 loins covered in black truffles. I didn't really taste the truffles. They were layered over a few pieces of white asparagus that were a bit tough. The lamb was very flavorful but not interesting in preparation.
We went with cheeses for dessert. Some good, some not but I had probably hit the wall at this point. They gave us a small platter of different cookies too. All good but nothing truly awesome.
Bouley was such an innovator many years ago. Maybe he didn't change with the times. Thomas Keller of French Laundry is doing what David Bouley wish he was doing. Interesting, thought provoking, delicious food. The food at Bouley was good but it wasn't great. Great is what it should be when you are paying the prices he is charging. I wasn't waiting for the "omigod, you must taste this" but it never happened. Both of us were truly disappointed.