David Bouley’s TriBeCa flagship, Bouley, is a very distinguished restaurant, though its popularity has (justifiably) waned somewhat since the 1990s. Bouley used to be housed in a gorgeously intimate space with magenta-colored arched ceilings. Despite being the restaurant’s trademark, Bouley was inexplicably relocated in 2008 a few blocks away and has lost some of its original character and charm, particularly if you have the misfortune, as we repeatedly did, to be seated in the downstairs dungeon rather than in the grand and romantic main dining room. Although parts of the new design (such as the antique Provençal doors and Burgundy stone floors, the fantastical green entrance corridor, piled with shelf upon shelf of aromatic apples and the arched ceilings, the roaring fireplace, the Oriental rugs and the tapered candles of the lavish main dining room) are beguiling, it does not quite all hang together, and there is some poor design judgment at work, such as absurdly kitschy chandeliers and faux-Impressionist art, as well as inharmonious color combinations. The vertiginous effect is at once baronial and vintage flea market.
Bouley’s food, however, continues to be outstanding, with a number of his dishes among the very finest in the city. These include a porcini flan filled with Alaskan Dungeness crab and a black truffle daishi and an organic farm egg with black truffle and 24-month Comté. Bouley was a pioneer of sous vide cooking, and many of the dishes reflect this specialty. The restaurant is known for its exquisite deserts, among which are an incredibly light and evocative complimentary white chocolate cloud with green tea powder, a hot valrhona chocolate soufflé with white chocolate ice cream and chocolate mousse and the “Chocolate Frivilous”. A wild baby blueberry and hibiscus sorbet and bulgar wheat gelato is sometimes served as an arresting interlude between the main courses and desserts. It is a wild and totally unexpected combination of sweet and salty, the bulgar wheat remarkably similar in tonality to the soba tea served at the conclusion of a meal at Masa.
There was a time when Bouley had an irreproachable claim to being the best restaurant in New York City. In 1991, Zagat asked 7,000 diners, “Where would you eat the last meal of your life?” and respondents overwhelmingly picked Bouley. In its heyday, it had a 29 food rating from Zagat and a four star rating from the New York Times. It would be nice to see Bouley rise to that level again.
163 Duane St.
New York (nr. Hudson St.)
212-964-2525 Mon-Sat, 11:30am-11pm;
RECOMMENDED DISHES See All
- Chilled Kumamoto Oysters with Russian Golden Osetra Caviar, Thinly Sliced Live Sea Scallops, Homemade Radish Pickle, Parsley Juice
- Forager’s Treasure of Wild Mushrooms - Sweet Garlic, Special Spices, Grilled Toro, Black Truffle Dressing
- Porcini Flan - Alaska Live Dungeness Crab, Black Truffle Dashi
- Organic Connecticut Farm Egg - Fresh Black Truffle, 24 Month Comté Cloud
- All-Natural Pennsylvania Chicken, Squash Ravioli, Vermont Chanterelles, Carrot & Persimmon Dressing
- “Chocolate Frivolous” - Chocolate Brûlée, Chocolate Parfait, Hazelnut Dacquoise, Chocolate-Walnut Spiced Bread, Prailine and Prune Armagnac Ice Creams
- The Cloud - with Green Tea Matcha