Let’s call it a parable of loaves and dishes. Thanks to restaurateur par excellence Daniel Boulud, we ate well (and often!) during our city sojourn. Initially alarmed to learn of the closure of our beloved Café Boulud, we vowed to somehow make do with the chef’s UWS outpost, Bar Boulud.
Has “making do” ever looked better?
Chef Boulud, through some sort of wizardry or legerdemain – or perhaps just talent and hard work – is currently juggling fifteen establishments, seven of them in NYC. Bar Boulud, felicitously, is less than a thousand steps from our apartment and has adapted its space and menu brilliantly to pandemic cuisine. Talk about comfort food!
Yes, I know, I should have stopped at the Kale and Fig Salad:
But it was NOT my idea to order the Merveilleux Noir: “crispy meringue, jivara chantilly, dark chocolate sorbet”. I ate two bites. Okay, maybe four bites:
It’s not just the food at a Boulud restaurant. There is always a genuine warmth of hospitality and sometimes even a bit of whimsy. Some nights the sommelier at Bar Boulud totes a jeroboam around the restaurant, offering patrons a glass of something they might not otherwise have tasted – the night we were there it was a French burgundy. I personally think it’s bad luck to ever say no when someone appears bearing a jeroboam.
The centerpiece of of our culinary experience this trip was an evening at Boulud’s recently opened Le Pavillon at 1 Vanderbilt next to Grand Central Terminal. At 1.5 miles from our apartment, at least we got a few calorie-burning steps in during our walk down to 42nd Street that evening.
The restaurant’s space is delightful – chic but not overly formal. And yes, it’s on the pricey side, but one always departs a Boulud restaurant with the sense that whatever the tab, it was worth it. Le Pavillon is apparently thus christened in honor of a former restaurant that occupied the same space from the 1940’s to 1960’s. debuting at New York’s 1939 World’s Fair:
Boulud’s iteration of the space recalls the airiness of its predecessor but in a distinctly 21st century way:
After a refreshing cocktail
we pondered the menu. It is seafood forward but there are plenty of options for those who prefer terre to mer. We took a first course dip with “Torchetti pasta, Maryland jumbo lump crab, fennel confit, Jimmy Nardello peppers”:
and “Yellowfin tuna, fennel pollen, socca crisp, tonato sauce”
I was too focused on my Sole Romanesco to notice what the CE ordered. It took all my attention to behold the tableau of “kataifi crusted Dover sole, roasted Romanesco, artichoke, sauce grenobloise”:
For dessert, the Peche with Fromage Blanc:
What a lovely evening we had! While we certainly needed a long walk home after that meal, it was late and the city doesn’t feel as safe as it has in the past. Le Pavillon’s location is a bonus because while cabs seem to be in short supply these days, you can always find one in front of Grand Central Terminal. Another reason to love Daniel Boulud!
Lucky for us, the re-opening of Boulud Sud, the chef’s Lincoln Square nod to Mediterranean cuisine, was scheduled for our last night in the city. The CE enjoyed a mezze appetizer
while I ordered the gambas:
and then my old favorite, the chicken tagine:
Of course, this was all just lead-up to one of our favorite desserts in the city: Grapefruit Givré. A 2018 Eater article deconstructed the elements for us: “The chefs spoon sorbet into a hollowed out grapefruit shell before tossing in fresh segments of the fruit and citrus marmalade…sesame foam…rose loukoum, [then] seals the grapefruit with a brûléed orange sugar tuile, and anoints the whole affair with halva candy floss.”
Pure sorcery! Pure delight! The CE was unwilling to share, so we each had our own:
If only along with all the other “passports” we need these days, Daniel Boulud offered one for his “frequent flyers”. If there were such a thing, perhaps I could “earn” my way to an evening at the pinnacle of the Boulud empire: Restaurant Daniel on the UES. One can always hope…