FCC Review #009 - Cafe Boulud
Let me paint a picture for you as I sit here listening to Si tu vois ma mere by Sidney Bechet.
I knew the minute I found out who the Head Chef was that this restaurant was going to be nothing short of immaculate. Refined, classic yet provocative. You don’t earn Michelin stars by bullshitting your way around the kitchen. You become an alchemist- a culinary chemist balancing the elements of technique, flavour, presentation, and uniqueness.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have had the benefit of having dined at two restaurants owned by the same chef. This is truly a first for me, and my dinner date last Friday took me on a pleasant walk down memory lane.
There is a restaurant on 60 E 65th Street in Manhattan, New York. It is the type of restaurant that requires a jacket and a mature palette. Tradition is the hallmark of the cuisine and elegance is the ambience in the charming main dining hall. I am talking about the three Michelin starred restaurant, Daniel.
The architecte culinaire is Chef Daniel Boulud, who has recently opened his newest restaurant Café Boulud in the Rosewood Hotel here in Nassau!
So there are some things you need to know before you go to Café Boulud. Chef Daniel is a style master and his cuisine draws inspiration from La Tradition (Traditional), La Saison (Seasonal), La Mer (The Sea) and Le Voyage (The Trip). Each muses treasure is in its flavour and the use of local and regional ingredients makes all the difference. The food is going to be fresh, vibrant and most importantly delicious. My suggestion is to order one thing from each section of the menu for the full experience.
The next thing you need to know is that they have the most extensive wine list I have seen in a while. It was almost overwhelming. Thankfully, they have a in-house sommelier to take you through the collection and assist you with finding the perfect wine for your plate and palate. If you ask one of the waiters, they can usher you to what I’ll describe as the wine hall; a set of cellar style shelves containing some of the rarest and best wines in the world. I think their wine list spans something like 15 countries and more than 20 varietals.
The main dining room is filled with local artists’ paintings and is a quite subtle space. There is nothing boastful or ostentatious about it.; flat white table cloths true to classic fine dining, ornate wine glasses and neatly folded napkins. There is a private dining room that looks fit for a meeting of statesmen with large leather seats and a vast wooden table.
Either way, the décor, in general, is unassuming but nonetheless in line with my expectation of opulence. That’s not why you are here though, so let me jump into the food.
For starters, we had the King Crab (La Mer), and the Vichyssoise (La Tradition). There is a beautiful harmony when king crab and mango combine that gives you sweetness and some umami. Mangoes usually have a sweet-tangy taste to them, and the addition of cucumber tones down some of the slightly tart elements with the mint stabilizing the flavour train. It is fresh, it is light and if you get a little bit of everything on your fork each time, your last bite will taste like the first.
The Vichyssoise, a chilled avocado soup, is beautifully presented and poured at the table. In a restaurant of this caliber, I’d have it no other way. Texturally, the soup is incredibly smooth and moderately viscous. It is a light soup, something like gazpacho or borscht. The shrimp was sliced into nickel-sized rounds and placed around the plate, like the audience in an amphitheatre awaiting the pour which was the star of the show. The caviar added a unique type of saltiness to the dish, and while I was afraid that the dill may be somewhat overpowering (FYI – I do not like dill) it was present, but not loud.
Heading for the main course, this may be a terrific time to talk about their wine list. There are wine lists, and then there are wine lists. I am not sure how their sommelier managed to curate such a perfect collection, but she did it. We all know about the popular varietals - merlots, cabernet and chardonnay – but have you ever had a white Burgundy? If not, I am about to tell you how I almost achieved nirvana.
Domine Pierre Morey 2018 is the white wine of my dreams. A white Burgundy is a first for me. Given that they grow chardonnay grapes there, I am a little disappointed I didn’t discover this wine sooner. It’s sexy and sassy with an earthy bouquet with the scent of raspberries. There is a floral element on the tongue like honey-dipped summer nasturtiums and the finish is very light and smooth. If you decide on the same entrées, I would recommend this wine.
So entrée time! The Berkshire pork chop (La Saison) caught my eye and my illustrious company ordered the grilled swordfish (La Mer).
The pork chop was crusted in bacon- this is not a drill. Accompanying this sublime swine was perfectly roasted cabbage that tasted like it was made in a cast-iron skillet on the beach and salted by the sea spray caused by the Bahamian ocean breeze. The sweet potato added a welcomed sweetness to the savoury bacon crusted oink-oink chop. The mustard brought the knockout blow to dizzy your taste buds and send you into euphoria.
If you didn’t know, Berkshire pork is one of the most flavourful meats you can find. It is like the Kobe beef of pork. The meat from Berkshire pigs has shorter muscle fibres and lots of marbling which gives it flavour and tenderness. This isn’t your average pork chop.
There isn’t a fish I don’t eat and swordfish is a prized find for me. These are large, very fast fish with lean meat and not much of the oil you find in a fish like salmon for example. It’s important to cook it fast to keep it tender. There are also few things worse than overcooked swordfish, the texture of which will be similar to a Nike slipper or an eraser perhaps.
There were no such mishaps with the swordfish at Café Boulud.
I haven’t eaten a more deliberate and intentional dish in Nassau to date. The swordfish was cooked perfectly, showing a little bit of rawness in the middle (love that!). The cauliflower puree when combined with romanesco capers was like a Chanel dress adorning this dish; a simple, classy addition with an impactful presence because of the quality. Lemon gremolata brought the much-needed touch of citric acid which finishes the fish neatly and releases all its natural flavours.
The dishes at Café Boulud seem to all embody a complexity only found where a chef has taken time to perfect the elemental and create a tastefully emulous array of dishes that transcend all expectations.
Now, there is one more course we’ve got to discuss. We were told that we were the first ones to try this dish and of that I am proud.
A desert is supposed to be sweet. I know that sounds silly, but what I mean is I don’t want just processed sugar. I want sweetness generated by layers of different fruit and I am looking for different textures. Give me compotes, jams, reductions the whole nine yards. In this dessert, which isn’t on the menu so I don’t actually know the name of it (come to think of it) from start to finish I got exactly what I wanted. It is a roll filled with guava and strawberry preserve, served in a strawberry compote. Think of a luxurious guava duff egg-roll, sort of. That does it no justice. The accoutrements of a caramel crust and a tear-dropped scoop of sorbet made this dessert come to life.
Overall Café Boulud was a wonderful fine dining experience. I fully plan to go back for breakfast, as I am on a mission to see who on the island has the best eggs benedict. If you’re keen on a night out in a Parisian restaurant, you now have that option right here at the Rosewood.
Go out, and have a fine dining experience! Bon appetit!
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