Entries in Bertrand Chemel (3)


The Payoff: Café Boulud

Today, as expected, Frank Bruni awarded three stars to Café Boulud.

As I predicted, Bruni included a backhanded slap at Boulud’s flagship, the four-star Daniel, saying that Café Boulud is “the most consistently enjoyable” of the chef’s restaurants. Daniel is the only four-star restaurant in New York that Bruni has not yet reviewed. The comment certainly suggests that it might not retain its lofty perch when Bruni finally gets around to it. Indeed, I suspect the only reason he hasn’t done so is that he has no other restaurant to replace it with, and he doesn’t want the four-star club to dwindle below its current five members.

The review was one of the few times Bruni has been able to visit this type of restaurant without bitching about the elegant service that top-tier restaurants offer. Unlike most people, Frank is actually offended when you pamper him. But the best he could say, was that Café Boulud is “no less fun to visit in this informal dining era.” Though that’s a compliment coming from Frank, I doubt the Boulud empire will be pulling it as a teaser quote.

And isn’t it just typical that it was a pasta dish that sealed Frank’s opinion that Café Boulud still deserved the three stars it earned from Ruth Reichl?

Both Eater and NYJ win $3 on our hypothetical $1 bets.

          Eater        NYJ
Bankroll $36.60   $33.67
Gain/Loss +3.00   +3.00
Total $39.50   $36.67
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 15–4   13–6

Rolling the Dice: Café Boulud

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, Frank Bruni sharpens his knives at Café Boulud. Eater’s official odds are as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 8-1
One Star: 7-1
Two Stars: 4-1
Three Stars: 3-1
Four Stars: 5,000-1

The Skinny: “Rolling the Dice” returns this week after a two-month hiatus. Sorry to say, we don’t have much by way of original analysis. As Eater noted, Frank Bruni is already on record with the view that Café Boulud is the most enjoyable of Daniel Boulud’s three New York restaurants. I wasn’t enraptured when I visited last year, but a friend whose opinion I respect assured me it must have been an off-night.

I also agree with Eater that CB has flown under the radar in recent years, and there’s really no reliable way of telling whether the new chef, Bertrand Chemel, has his act together. And there is always Bruni’s well known aversion to French cooking. But I have to agree that three stars is the most likely outcome, given Bruni’s already-documented affection for the place.

The Bet: We agree with Eater that Frank Bruni will award three stars to Café Boulud. Regardless of the rating, look for Bruni to include a back-handed slap at Daniel, the only one of the four-star restaurants he has yet to review.


Café Boulud

Note: This is a review under Chef Bertrand Chemel, who has since left the restaurant. Click here for a review under his replacement, Gavin Kaysen.


A friend has just celebrated her 45th birthday. For the occasion, I decided to take her to Café Boulud, the three-star sibling of Daniel Boulud’s four-star flagship, Daniel. I’ve heard great things about Café Boulud over the years, but Andrew Carmellini, the chef de cuisine to whom it owes its reputation, jumped ship recently to open A Voce, leaving the kitchen in the hands of Bertrand Chemel.

We weren’t blown away. One can never go too far wrong with seared foie gras ($26), but there was nothing distinguished about the preparation. Peking Duck ($36) was likewise competent, and an ample portion, but wasn’t special. My friend had a similar reaction to sweetbreads ($19) and hangar steak ($34). Her cheese course ($21) was one of the comparative bargains.

One server offered a special dessert, but moments later another server told us it was unavailable. The strawberry grati ($13) was just fine, although quickly forgotten.

On the plus side, I was impressed to see that the wine list had a full page of white wine selections under $60, and another full page with reds under $60. I’ve been to plenty of restaurants less ambitious than Café Boulud where the choices under $60 were few and far between.

With so much more to choose from on the menu, I hesitate to say that Café Boulud is coasting, but both of us found the cooking uninspired, given the price point.

Café Boulud (20 E. 76th St. between Fifth & Madison Avenues, Upper East Side)

Food: **
Service: **
Ambiance: ***
Overall: **