Entries in Daniel Boulud (24)


The Whole Hog at DBGB

Many restaurants offer whole-animal “feasts”, or what’s called “large format” in the trade. Recently, a group of friends gathered for the Whole Hog at DBGB, Daniel Boulud’s charcuterie and burger-centric restaurant on the Bowery. 

The feast is offered on at least 72 hours’ notice, and costs $495 for “up to 8 guests.” (The advance notice shouldn’t be an issue: rounding up such a large party took weeks.) Anyhow, you get starters of salad and pig’s head terrine, the pig itself, and Baked Alaska for dessert. All the beer you can drink is an extra $200, but we ordered beverages à la carte and spent less than that. The full bill came to $636 before tax and tip.

Although not stated on the website, extra guests are $60 each, and if I did it again, I’d highly recommend bringing at least 10. The eight of us went home full, and there was still a ton of food left over.

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db bistro moderne

Let’s bow down to Daniel Boulud’s genius. None of his New York restaurants have ever failed. Even at the flagship Daniel, which some people find stodgy, he has managed to keep it just enough up-to-date to remain popular and relevant.

More remarkably, he did this without ever abandoning his French roots, during many years when his cuisine was not exactly fashionable. Even that Italophile and Fracophobe Frank Bruni never gave him a bad review.

Boulud renovates his restaurants after a decade or so. Both Daniel and Café Boulud went under the knife at around their tenth anniversaries. This summer, it was db bistro moderne’s turn. I’m sure it was still doing decent business, but after a dozen years it was Boulud’s most off-the-radar restaurant. It was time.

My two previous meals there were in 2004 and 2006, so I don’t recall the original very well. The interior has been totally redone by Jeffrey Beers International in mirrors and dark paneling (see Eater.com for photos). They’ve added a bar, which the original db bistro lacked. Most of the tables have tablecloths. It looks a bit corporate, but very much in Boulud’s style, and appropriate for a neighborhood that sees a lot of hotel and commercial traffic. Boulud was never the sawdust and heavy metal type.

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On a recent visit to Daniel Boulud’s newest restaurant, Boulud Sud, I was struck by the consistent solidity of the chef’s restaurants.

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)

Food: *½
Service: **
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *½


Boulud Sud

The word chef derives from a Latin word meaning chief, or head. It is, in other words, a managerial job, even though most of us think of chefs as “people who cook.” That, of course, is Daniel Boulud’s public persona. But running an empire of thirteen restaurants in six cities on three continents is more a test of management than of cooking, and in New York no one has a better success rate then Boulud.

With the opening of Boulud Sud (a Mediterranean-themed fine dining restaurant) and Épicerie Boulud (a sandwich and take-out place) across the street from Lincoln Center, Boulud is now up to eight Manhattan establishments. I believe he is the only restaurateur in town with six or more, who has never closed one. (His record out of town is more mixed: two Vancouver restaurants closed this year; a Las Vegas restaurant closed in 2010.)

Boulud’s Manhattan restaurants are all hits. If he ever has a slow night anywhere, I’ve never seen it. What is more remarkable, all of his restaurants remain recognizably French—a cuisine that is hardly fashionable in this town, to say the least.

Boulud’s closest analogue in New York, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, opens a steakhouse here, a Thai restaurant there, a Japanese one somewhere else, and so forth. Indeed, Vongerichten’s website promises, “A cuisine to suit every taste.” That’s not Boulud. Although his places span a wide range of formality, or the lack thereof, he doesn’t try to be something he’s not. That may be the key to his enduring success.

Boulud’s restaurants are critical hits, as well. Of the five that received “starred” reviews in The New York Times, all have the rating that I believe Boulud intends them to have (four at Daniel, three at Café Boulud, two at DB Bistro Moderne, Bar Boulud, and DBGB).

Boulud Sud and Épicerie Boulud build on the chef’s already successful Lincoln Center beachhead, where Bar Boulud has remained perpetually packed since it opened in 2008. As I noted at the time, there are at least 10,000 seats at the performing arts center, they are in use most nights of the year, and most of those people want to eat. It seemed remarkable that so few good restaurants were in the immediate vicinity.

Since Bar Boulud came along, prospects for dining at Lincoln Center have improved considerably, with Lincoln opening in a new space, and Ed’s Chowder House, and Atlantic Grill replacing formerly dreary alternatives. But Boulud is clearly betting that the neighborhood is not yet saturated, and judging by the crowds at these restaurants, he is probably right.

Boulud Sud is the most outwardly formal dining room that Boulud has opened in quite some time. Predictably, an Eater.com commenter called it “dated and stuffy”: the younger diners that restaurateurs covet are conditioned to break out into hives when they see a white tablecloth. Good for Boulud for bucking that trend. This is a comfortable, adult restaurant, lying at about the midpoint of between the bustling Bar Boulud around the corner and the quiet Café Boulud on the Upper East Side.

Servers and runners wear crisp white shirts and black vests. Boulud, leaving nothing to chance, brought in a brigade (many of them from his other restaurants) that practically outnumbers the guests. My immediate reaction, after falling in love with the room (nicer than the photo suggests), was to think: we are going to get taken care of here.

The Mediterranean theme gives Boulud license to wander from the south of France, to Italy and Morocco. You can easily dine here for under $40 per head, before alcohol. That probably won’t last, but for now Boulud Sud might be the best fine dining deal in town.

The menu, with its multiple categories, reminds me a bit of Café Boulud: “De La Mer” (fish and seafood), “Du Jardin” (vegetables), “De La Ferme” (meat and poultry). Within these categories, there’s a further subdivision into “small plates,” appetizers and entrées. Mains average around $25, and very few are over $30. The small plates and apps (the distinction being somewhat arbitrary) average around $12.

From the “small plates” section, a Tartine ($13; above left) offered four delicate canapés of crabmeat, sea urchin, and olives. Treviso Salad ($12; above right) was a simple, but effective combination of castelmagno cheese, speck ham, and aged balsamic.

Lamb Cleopatra ($23; above left) is lamb shoulder, slowly braised, and served with almonds and apricots: a hearty, satisfying dish. Daurade ($27; above right) is crisped on the plancha, served with vegetables on a Romesco sauce.

All of these dishes are slightly on the conservative side, as you would expect in a Boulud restaurant, but they were beautifully done, especially at the price. The Daurade, for instance, would easily be a $30+ entrée in many restaurants, without being any better.

It’s difficult to predict the trajectory of a restaurant on its third night of service, when the chef/owner has his A team on the floor, everyone is on best behavior, and the reservation book is being held down to 70 or 80 percent full. Boulud Sud will, if nothing else, be more expensive later on. If it becomes as busy as Bar Boulud, it might be a shade less charming.

But for now, Daniel Boulud has another hit on his hands.

Boulud Sud (20 W. 64th St. btwn Broadway & Central Park West, Upper West Side)

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


Café Boulud


Last week I paid a return visit to Café Boulud, my first since a renovation last year that brightened up the main dining room and added a cocktail lounge called Bar Pleiades.

As it has been from the beginning, the menu is in four sections: La Tradition, La Saison, Le Potager, and Le Voyage, as well as a separate printed list of daily specials. After two prior visits (here, here), I finally learned my lesson:

Order Anything but Le Voyage!

The only really disappointing dishes I have ever had here, have been from Le Voyage. Avoid them and you will have a happy experience. This was the best meal I have had at Café Boulud.

Full disclosure: my mom and I received a version of the VIP treatment, with a triple amuse-bouche (left), a comped mid-course, and a comped dessert. Perhaps the staff recognized my name, but I have never received extras at any of Boulud’s other restaurants.

For whatever the reason, service was superb—practically clairvoyant—but no amount of pampering could create excellent food unless the kitchen is already capable of it. Which it clearly is.


To strart, my mom had the oysters ($21), while I had the Jersey Corn Agnoloti ($18), with flavors wickedly fresh and vibrant. The kitchen comped a bright, colorful Heirloom Tomato Salad (below).


I love the wine list at Café Boulud. You can spend a whole paycheck, if you want to, but there is more variety under $100 than at just about any other restaurant in its class. There is still a whole page of wines under $60, but I decided to spend a bit more than that—a 2002 Bernadotte, a comparative bargain at $80, but still more than we normally spend. Not many restaurants right now have any 2002 Bordeaux at that price. We ordered it before the food (the only reliable strategy), and the sommelier offered to decant it for us, giving the wine time to bloom.


I can’t begin to describe the excellent and beautifully plated entrées in detail—they were far too complex for that, and the joy of being an amateur blogger is that I don’t have to. (If I were Sam Sifton, I’d need to call the chef and write down every ingredient, for fear of misstating one.) So go, and order them: cherry-glazed duck ($38; above left) and rabbit three ways ($37; above right).


Goat’s milk sorbet ($10; left) was a fulfilling, uncomplicated way to end the evening. The kitchen comped an extra scoop for my mom, along with a “fruit soup” (above right) that was somewhat underwhelming. We did our best to lay off of the traditional beignets that come as petits-fours, but resistance was futile.

Frank Bruni once said that Café Boulud was his favorite of the Boulud restaurants. It took me a while to see why. Daniel, the flagship, is a formal dress-up evening, and I’ve never quite had the feeling that it lived up to its price point. The other three (DB Bistro Moderne, Bar Boulud, and DBGB) are all very good, and I enjoy them, but they are casual, quick-bite places. (Two of the three are dominated by pre- and post-theater business.)

Café Boulud is fancy enough to make you feel special, but casual enough that you don’t need an occasion to dine here. The restaurant used to be booked solid weeks in advance, virtually precluding an impulse visit, unless you were a regular. They’re still doing fine, but the reservation book has loosened up, and there’s even the occasional 1,000-point booking on OpenTable. We should go more often.

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

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



When Frank Bruni re-affirmed the four-star rating for Daniel earlier this year, his endorsement came with caveats not usually found in such a review: “it yields fewer transcendent moments than its four-star brethren and falls prey to more inconsistency,” and a clunker rate “slightly higher than a restaurant as ambitious as this one’s should be.”

I gave Daniel four stars in March 2007, but as I look back on that meal, I think it was the least satisfying of those to which I’ve given the highest rating. This must be taken in relative terms: obviously the food was very good. But four stars, meaning “extraordinary,” must be something more than that. When I looked back on that meal, and realized I couldn’t even vaguely recall very much of it, I realized that I must have overrated the place.

This feeling was cemented by a return visit last weekend. The décor has been brightened, the plush red velvet banished, but the food remains unexciting. I should clarify that our tastes are distinctly not biased against Chef Boulud because he has been cooking the same food for twenty years. We love the classics done well. Actually, there is nothing more exciting than breathing life into an old standard.

But among seven courses we had on a $185 tasting menu (click on image for a larger copy), there was not one I would especially care to have again. That’s not because there was anything wrong with them—to the contrary, I have great respect for the care with which most of them were put together. But all of that effort yielded curiously dull effects.

Part of me wished we had selected the $105 prix fixe. Several of the items offered there sounded a lot more interesting. On my next visit to Daniel—though I assure you, it probably won’t be anytime soon—we will probably go that route.

The bifurcated service at Daniel—one level for the anointed, another for everyone else—is the stuff of legend. We experienced none of this. We found all of the servers friendly, efficient, and highly professional.

But there were several inexplicably long waits, which struck us more as inattention than snobbery. We figured that by 10:15 p.m., the time of our reservation, the restaurant would be starting to thin out. To the contrary, we were kept waiting until 10:45.

While we cooled our jets in the bar, it seemed like forever until someone came to took our drinks order. The party next to us endured a similar wait, and they appeared to be known to Chef Boulud, who came over to say hello; they were later seated in a secluded nook designed (or so it appeared) for V.I.P.s.

We do understand that restaurants sometimes run behind for reasons beyond management’s control, but we think an explanation—or at least an apology—was in order, and under the circumstances our drinks should have been comped.

The one thing they did to help us bide our time, was to serve the amuses-bouches in the bar (photo right).

When we were seated, there was another fairly long wait before bread (many varieties of it—none warm) was served. Once our tasting menu was underway, service moved along at a good, but not hurried, pace. As it was, we were not out of there until 1:00 a.m., by which time only one other table was still seated.

The tasting menu format offers choices for every course, and we diverged on all but one of them, which allowed us to taste a good cross-section of the menu. (Most of the tasting menu items are also available on the prix fixe.)

First Course:

  • Mosaic of Capon, Foie Gras, and Celery Root. Pickled Daikon, Satur Farms Mâche, Pear Confit (above left)
  • Pressed Duck and Foie Gras Terrine. Chimay Gelée Chestnuts, Red Cabbage Chutney (above right)

These were both labor intensive dishes, and you had to respect the artistry involved. The Mosaic of Capon was the more satisfying of the two.

Second Course:

  • Maine Peekytoe Crab Salad. Celery, Walnut Oil, Granny Smith Sauce (above left)
  • Olive Oil Poached Cod “en Salade”. Artichoke Puré, Tarragon Dressing, Lemon Zest (above right)

The crab salad was the more successful of the two. The juxtaposition with apples struck us as especially clever. The poached cod salad didn’t have much flavor.

We both made the same choice for the third course: Handmade Spinach Tortelloni. Chanterelles, “Tomme de la Chataigneraie,”, Lomo, Black Garlic (left).

(The other choice for this course was a butter poached abalone with yellow curry braised greens, crispy rice, and chayote.)

Once again, we were impressed by the amount of labor that had gone into this dish, but the flavors were far too muted.

Fourth Course:

  • Whole Grain Crusted Skate. Chanterelles, Swiss Chard, Caper Chicken Jus (above left)
  • Loup de Mer with Syrah Sauce. Leek Royale, “Pommes Lyonnaise” (above right)

The blizzard of vegetables surrounding the skate was arguably more impressive than the skate itself. The Loup de Mer was somewhat unappetizing; on the plate, it resembled an eel.

Fifth Course:

  • Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Chop. Garbanzo Bean Fricassé, Chorizo, Rutabaga, Chickpea Tendrils (above left)
  • Duo of Dry Aged Black Angus Beef. Red Wine Braised Short Rib with Parsnip-Potato Gratin, Seared Rib Eye with Black Trumpets. Gorgonzola Cream (above right)

The lamb and the short rib, although correctly prepared, seemed pedestrian for a restaurant on this level—or should I say, purported level. The ribeye was tough, and had none of the marbling that it should.

Sixth Course:

  • Citrus Biscuit with Pink Grapefruit. Buddha’s Hand Lemon Confit, Mandarin Sorbet (above left)
  • Warm Guanaja Chocolate Coulant. Liquid Caramel, Fleur de Sel, Milk Sorbet (above middle)
  • Birthday Cake (above right)

The citrus biscuit was the best of the three. The chocolate coulant was dry, and we didn’t bother finishing it. The birthday cake was better.

The meal finished with petits-fours (average) and the warm beignets (excellent) that, by this time of the evening, sadly went to waste.

While Daniel has the format of a four-star restaurant, with its high ratio of servers to customers, high-end servingware, labor-intensive preparation, sauces poured at tableside, and so forth, we found the food uninspired and dull. We hold nothing against Daniel for serving the same classics year after year. But they need to inspire more than just “respect” for the level of effort involved.

We respect Daniel, but we did not love it.

Daniel (60 E. 65th Street west of Park Avenue, Upper East Side)

Food: **½
Service: **½
Ambiance: ****
Overall: **½

The crab salad was the more successful of the two. The juxtaposition with apples struck us as especially clever. The poached cod salad didn’t have much flavor.

Review Recap: DBGB

Today, the Sam Sifton era began with a two-star review of Daniel Boulud’s DBGB:

A cynic would call this fashion and scoff. But one bite of the crispy lamb ribs that were served in the bar area when the place first opened — sweetly glazed, grassy meat, with a dab of creamy mint-flecked yogurt sauce — ended all snark: Mr. Boulud has opened a very good restaurant. The lamb was sublime, earthy and spicy and rich, evidence of superb technique, the sort of snack that separates his empire from others in the celebrity firmament.

Recent visits to all five of Mr. Boulud’s New York restaurants suggest: his kitchens put out perfectly cooked food. Diners may quibble here and there (with the sweetened cucumber juice in the Hendrick’s gin cocktail at Daniel, for instance), but rare is the complaint about technique. Jim Leiken, DBGB’s executive chef, a young veteran of Daniel and DB Bistro Moderne, is no exception. His food game, as they say in rap precincts, is tight.

What do we want from a review, anyway? Entertaining? Check. Relevant—that is, not self-indulgent? Check. Well informed? Check. Accurate? I can’t tell. Sifton liked the place a tad better than we did two months ago, and better than most other critics did. But two months in the life of a four-month-old restaurant is a long time.

It will take many more reviews before we can say whether we trust Sifton’s verdicts. We suspect, however, that we will much enjoy reading them. We are delighted that he can write a robust paragraph. We recall—not with fondness—Bruni reviews with a dozen or more one-sentence grafs in a row.

With the return of the Eater odds, we are now resetting the score to zero (as we had promised) and resuming our weekly guessing game with Ben Leventhal, with a hypothetical one-dollar bet on the line. Both we and Leventhal believed that DBGB would get a star, so we both lose a dollar.

Eater   NYJ
Bankroll $0.00   $0.00
Gain/Loss –$1.00   –$1.00
Total –$1.00   –$1.00
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 0–1

Life-to-date, New York Journal is 70–26 (73%).


Review Preview: DBGB

Record to date: 12–5

Tomorrow, the Sam Sifton era at The New York Times begins with a review of Daniel Boulud’s casual downtown burger-and-sausage joint, DBGB Kitchen & Bar.

The Odds: The Eater.com odds have returned, with a slightly different format: One Star Odds: 3-1; Two Stars: 4-1; Sift Happens: 45-1.

The Skinny: With its casual vibe, informal décor, and a menu of mainly burgers, charcuterie, and inexpensive classics, DBGB screams “one-star restaurant.” To get two stars, it would need to be extremely good.

Reviews have been mixed, including a star each from Adam Platt in New York and Ryan Sutton in Bloomberg. However, Jay Cheshes in TONY four-of-fived it.

Boulud has had the luxury of an unusually long break-in period. The restaurant opened in June, and most reviews appeared in July or August. Sifton’s review meals likely did not begin until September, giving Boulud plenty of time to correct flaws the earlier reviewers complained about.

Sifton’s choice of a first review is a significant contrast from Frank Bruni, who opened by re-affirming Babbo’s three-star rating. We didn’t know it at the time, but that review foreshadowed what the Bruni era would be about—a preference for Italian cuisine, the love of all things Batali, and a distinct dislike for formal dining. A review of DBGB is not likely to tell us nearly as much.

But if, as we suspect, Bruni-era star inflation is finally over, Sifton is hardly likely to blow a two-star kiss at DBGB, which wouldn’t leave him much room for the real two-star restaurants to come. At the same time, we don’t think he’d begin with a restaurant he dislikes, which leaves one star as the most likely outcome.

The Bet: We agree with Eater that Sam Sifton will award one star to DBGB.


Review Previews: DBGB, Marea, Eleven Madison Park

Record to date: 8–3

We’ll be away for the next two weeks, and most likely will not be able to post our Review Previews in real time, so we’re posting them now.

Bruni has three reviews remaining. What will they be?

  1. Marea is a definite: there’s no way Bruni would pass up an upscale Italian place that opened on his watch.
  2. Eater.com reported that Bruni has been spoted three times recently at Eleven Madison Park. He wouldn’t be there so often in the twilight of his tenure unless he’s working up a re-review.
  3. The last one’s something of a wild card, but among places that must be reviewed (and a Boulud restaurant clearly fits this description), we are fairly certain that DBGB is the oldest outstanding.

Bruni has already reviewed Eleven Madison Park twice (two stars; 2/23/2005 and three stars; 1/10/2007). A promotion to four is the only conceivable reason to review it again. He has not named a new four-star restaurant since Masa in December 2004. The 4½-year gap is the longest in Times history, a record he set in the middle of last year. We and others believe that he’s itching to crown one more.

Unfortunately, that will leave poor Marea with three stars, as Bruni isn’t going to canonize two restaurants in under a month, when in almost five years he found none at all. We don’t think Marea is a four-star restaurant in any event, but given Bruni’s love-affair with Italian cuisine we thought he just might pull the trigger until we heard he was taking another hard look at Eleven Madison. (If the 11MP review doesn’t come through, then Mike White and Chris Cannon could still have a chance.)

Finally, DBGB: Most reviews we’ve seen (including our own) have been slightly less enthusiastic about this place than Bar Boulud at Lincoln Center, where Bruni awarded two stars. We therefore believe that DBGB will be rated a notch lower, at one star.

In summary, our predictions are: one star for DBGB, three stars for Marea, and four stars for Eleven Madison Park. Obviously, it’s possible that Bruni’s final reviews will include one or two other places, but we’re positive that Marea will be among the three.



Chef Daniel Boulud is gradually working his way down the formality ladder. His five New York restaurants, in order of opening, are Daniel, Café Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, Bar Boulud, and now DBGB—each more casual than its predecessor.

This is sensible positioning on Boulud’s part. Each of his five NYC properties fills a distinct niche, but all of them retain an essential French soul. In that respect, he parts company with fellow four-star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who puts his name to a much wider variety of concepts, many of which have little to do with the cuisine he is famous for.

Not that DBGB is a classical French restaurant—it serves hamburgers and hot dogs, after all—but the core of the menu is French, and it’s a sensibly edited document. It doesn’t try to be all things to all people—as David Bouley tried and failed last year at Secession.

And Boulud knows how to roll out a restaurant. Industry glitterati were all a-twitter at the opening, fawning over the chef’s beer and sausages, admiring the row of cooking pots dotted along the walls, all donated by famous chefs. Beneath its rustic pretensions is a business model that, according to the Times, needs to gross $4.5 million per year to be profitable.

None of this is resentment. Actually, it’s admiration. Boulud could teach the rest of the industry how to open a restaurant. Even at his most casual place, the kitchen runs smoothly. The serving staff are attentive and friendly. They take reservations, check parcels, and transfer the bar tab to the table. It’s nice to know that at least some of David Chang’s antics aren’t being copied by everyone.

The menu is a slave to fashion in at least some respects, with many sections that blur the traditional lines between appetizers and entrées, a system that encourages sharing, and at times over-ordering. We had about the right quantity of food, but it was far too monotonous, and our stomachs felt weighed down at the end of the evening. We may well have chosen the wrong mix of items, and in that respect neither the menu nor our server offered much guidance.

About that menu: there are cold appetizers ($7–17), fruits de mer ($30, 60, 90), hot appetizers ($8–16), charcuterie (a subset of the Bar Boulud menu; $7–12); sausages ($9–15); a section labeled tête aux pieds, which I interpret loosely as “head and feet” ($9–12), entrées ($16–26), three different burgers ($14–19), and side dishes ($6).

Despite all of those categories, the menu manages to avoid the appearance of rambling. The largest section is the sausages, with 14 choices. Along with the tête aux pieds, it’s somewhat confusingly captioned “To Share,” although the section also includes the DBGB Dog ($9), which is just a standard hot dog, albeit with house-made sautéed onions and relish.

We ordered one hot appetizer, two sausages, and one of the tête aux pieds, all to share. This may have been the wrong way to appreciate the menu, but our server either encouraged, or at least did not discourage us from doing this. The kitchen sent out the items one at a time, and at a good pace.

We loved the Octopus à la Plancha ($12; above left), an ample portion lightly cooked, exactly as it should be. Our next item was supposed to be the Toscane ($11; above right). We are not sure if we got the right thing, as it was in a sub-section of the menu captioned “spicy,” and we found nothnig spicy or Tuscan about it. This was the one part of the evening when we could not flag down a server, so we decided to just eat what we had been given. The sausages here tasted like dressed-up breakfast—which is to say, not bad but not wonderful either.

Our next item, the Tunisienne ($15; above left) lived up to its billing. A spicy lamb & mint merguez gave way to a punchy braised spinach with chickpeas. Other sausages caught my eye, such as the Toulouse (pork & duck gizzard with cassoulet beans) and the Boudin Basque (spicy blood and pig’s head), but those will have to wait until another day.

The Pied de Cochon, or pig’s foot ($13; above right) needs to come with a Surgeon General’s warning. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this thing is huge. Even to share, it was probably excessive. Meat from the pig’s foot appeared to have been smoked, braised, then wrapped in a log and deep fried. There were a few small pieces of bone that apparently remained by mistake, though it is hard to say for sure, as I have nothing to compare it to. The dish was intense, but in the end a bit cloying.

A side order of fries (photo above; $6) was a tad on the mushy side.

There’s a wine list, naturally, but we ordered from the long list of beers, which pair well with such fat-laden food.

DBGB is a noisy restaurant. There are a few booths in alcoves that seem to offer a bit of seclusion, but they’re available only for larger parties. Most diners, even VIPs, are seated in the larger central section, where the packed tables and exposed hard surfaces are tough on the ears. Despite the raucous atmosphere, servers are dressed smartly, and we saw at least three managers prowling the floor and checking on customers’ wants. Except for one brief stretch when we could get no one’s attention to ask about our Tuscan sausage, it seemed there was always a server, a runner, or a manager stopping by—even if you couldn’t quite hear them.

There is much more here, and if the restaurant were on my way home I’d visit a lot more frequently, but I feel full just thinking about all of that fattening food. I’d still like to come back for the “Piggie” (a 6 oz. burger topped with Daisy May’s pulled pork), but I think I need to diet first.

DBGB (299 Bowery at E. 1st Street, East Village)

Food: *
Service: *½
Ambiance: *
Overall: *

DBGB Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon