Have there been wobbly moments? Yes, of course. Have the food and service always been precisely as they should be? No, of course not. But still, I find Boulud’s establishments more reliable than those of any other chef or restaurateur who has as many places as he does—except, perhaps, Danny Meyer.
Unlike Meyer’s empire, there is no one in Boulud’s large empire who is the obvious public frontman for the service end of the business, although he or she must exist: restaurants don’t keep executing at this level by magic, and Boulud himself could hardly be keeping track of them all.
Two years ago, my first visit to DBGB, the most casual restaurant in Boulud’s brood, had some hits and misses, but the restaurant then was nearly brand new, and so packed you could barely move. Sam Sifton came along and gave it two stars, which we thought was on the high side.
On a recent Saturday evening, we found DBGB very enjoyable indeed. It was less than half full, but as it was quite early—and a holiday weekend to boot—I wouldn’t draw any conclusions.
I certainly don’t remember a Matzo Ball Soup ($8; above left) on the opening menu. My son was perfectly happy with it.
One could argue that Spring Lamb ($27; above left) was over-priced for a rather small portion, but you can’t fault its preparation, which was first-rate. I wasn’t sure which of many sausages to try, but I finally chose the Korean, or Coréanne ($13; above right), a wickedly spicy pork sausage with a kimchi sauce and a stingy allotment of two shrimp chips.
DBGB has an attractive, casual dining room. It’s a pleasant place to be—at least when it is not crowded (and I don’t know when the crowds come, if they do at all these days). Service was much better than it had to be: I think the server checked back about 17 times, to ensure we had everything we needed.
The restaurant is a bit expensive, for what it is. My son didn’t drink alcohol, and all I had was a $10 beer. Nevertheless, the bill was $73 before the tip: not a splurge, but you can see from the photos how much food we got for that price, and it isn’t much. Obviously, there’s a “Boulud premium,” but at least the chef delivers.
DBGB (299 Bowery at E. 1st Street, East Village)