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The Payoff: Bouley

Today, Frank Bruni gave three stars to the new Bouley, confirming what most other critics have said: it’s better than the old one, but not quite four-star material.

[T]he new Bouley is a labor of obvious and obsessive love, its décor preferable to that of the old Bouley, whose purplish pink color scheme and candied gloss always left me feeling that I was supping inside a gigantic magenta gumdrop… .

In an era when the trend in restaurants is toward sleek minimalism, Bouley is a thrilling blast from the gaudy past, a reminder of how much pleasure can be had just from being tucked into such opulent chambers and attended with such formal manners. The servers are punctilious. Numerous, too.

While a three-course dinner here will set you back at least $75, not counting tax, tip or drinks, you’ll never wonder where that money is going. Only Daniel — which, interestingly, also spruced itself up recently, just in time for the recession — and Per Se give you quite the same feeling of giddy privilege… .

A meal at Bouley has many such peaks, but it has valleys, too, and now as in 2004, when I gave the restaurant three stars, its cooking over all isn’t on par with Daniel’s or Per Se’s. The food can be uneven, and too often engenders appreciation more than ardor. You regard rather than devour it.

We and Eater both took the one-star bet, winning $3 on our hypothetical one-dollar bets.

Eater   NYJ
Bankroll $120.50   $141.67
Gain/Loss +3.00   +3.00
Total $123.50   $144.67
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 55–25

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