In today’s Diner’s Journal, Frank Bruni reports that it’s not easy to make a reservation at Daniel Boulud’s latest restaurant, Bar Boulud. Not since Per Se, almost four years ago, has poor Frank had so much trouble reaching a human being. In Per Se’s case, he waited. In Bar Boulud’s case, he hung up in frustration after 15 minutes. [Update: The next day, he finally got through.]
He should have tried just walking in, which a friend and I did yesterday. At 6:00 p.m., we were seated at the bar without a wait. Three doors down, Josephina was full. Go figure.
Like most Michelin-starred chefs, Daniel Boulud isn’t content to have just one restaurant, but he hasn’t opened them as promiscuously as Jean-Georges Vongerichten or Alain Ducasse. Bar Boulud is his first New York opening in at least four years. The location across Broadway from Lincoln Center has long needed some more serious restaurants. I yawned when I heard that Bar Boulud was going to be focused on wine—who needs another wine bar? It turns out the real star is Sylvain Gasdon’s charcuterie menu.
Though yesterday was the official opening to the public, Boulud has been serving friends and family for a few weeks now. Grub Street responded with “dumbstruck awe,” adding that “this kind of charcuterie has almost never been available in this profusion and variety in the United States.” Ed Levine gushed, “Simply put, Gasdon is making the best charcuterie Americans have ever seen and tasted on these shores.” But he wondered, “are Americans ready for this kind of food?”
If you sit at the bar, as we did, you’ll have the massive terrines, pâtés and sausages right in front of you, a gorgeous sight incomparable to anything else in New York. If charcuterie isn’t your cup of espresso, Bar Boulud also has a more conventional bistro menu that takes its cues from Boulud’s native Lyon.
We had actually come in only for drinks, but there was no way I could leave without tasting the charcuterie that refined meatheads like Cutlets and Levine are raving about. So I tried the Pâté Grand-mère ($8), made with chicken liver, pork and cognac. It was a nice hunk, half an inch thick, and about 3 inches by 5, with a dollop of spiced mustard on the side and two bowls of bread (with soft butter). I ignored the bread and just ate the pâté with my fork. It had a luscious buttery taste, the liver pungent but not overwhelming. There’s much more where that came from, and I can’t wait to return.
The wine selection was disappointing. There were just four reds and four whites by the glass, far less than one expects at a purportedly wine-themed restaurant. Bar Boulud needs to do better—far better—than that. Servers were gracious, and the mise en place everything you’d expect in a Boulud restaurant, but the staff was too busy to pay us sufficient attention. We had trouble flagging down a server to order a second glass of wine, and we were there for about 45 minutes before they came with water glasses.
It is too soon to the judge the service, as this was only Bar Boulud’s first night. It will also take more than one pâté to reach a judgment on the food, but Bar Boulud certainly looks promising.
Bar Boulud (1900 Broadway near 63rd Street, Upper West Side)